CHILD ABUSE; A SOCIAL ILL

By Ekwi Ajide

Maltreatment of house helps by their guardians has been an enduring social ill in Nigeria.

Despite the recurring cases of maltreatment of such house helps which sometimes are so serious as to lead to grievous physical or mental harm sometimes, death of such children, many parents, for one reason or the other, still give out their children as house helps; a situation that jeopardizes the physical, intellectual and moral well being of such kids.

In this special report, Ekwi Ajide highlights the need to intensify the ongoing campaign against maltreatment of house helps, and the issues around the anomaly.

The Nigeria’s Child’s Rights Act 2003 provides for the strict safeguard of the rights and well being of the child, protecting him/her from all manner of physical, mental and moral harms as well as all sorts of social deprivations.

Among the cardinal rights of the child protected under this law is right to education, which is in consonance with the Goal four of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals which Nigeria has subscribed to.

Most guardians make promises such as sending the child to school, train him/her to become somebody in life but this is usually not the case as these children most times do not see the four walls of a school let alone study in them as you see them hawking sachet water and other wares in the markets and streets during school hours.

These children do not just miss school but are tortured physically, mentally, sexually and otherwise.

Nine years old Happiness is one of such kids who has undergone untold hardship in the hands of her guardian; as she was scaleded severally with hot knife for allegedly stealing money and the list is unending for many other such gory stories abound and yet the society watched silently unless some one decides to open up no case will be brought against the culprits.

Dr Emmanuel Egbunonu, is a legal practitioner, who says in the 28 years he has practiced in Nigeria, only two of such cases had been prosecuted.

"These kinds of torture usually have psychological effect on the children in their adult life and behave abnormally oftentimes, exhibiting the wickedness meted out to them" that’s according to a psychologist, Nkechi Ezeugo who lamented that most times, the retaliation is not against those who maltreats them but their children.

A Divisional Police Officer in charge of Fegge Onitsha, Mallam Rabiu Garuba, says poverty and illiteracy maybe why parents give out their children to become house helps and often chicken from prosecuting the offenders or even turn blind eyes to all the ills metted out to their children by their guardians.

“eliminating this evil should be everybody’s business; government should implement its policies by arresting and prosecuting all those who perpetrate such dastardly acts and the public should not look on but rise against the injustice meted out to kids around them”. A human rights advocate, Eric Okafor, said that’s the only way to ensure that such things do not happen again.