South Africa has high crime rates and children being the most vulnerable members of society can be at risk of being victims of various forms of crime. Housebreaking and home robbery are the most common crimes experienced by households in South Africa. Children can come into direct contact with criminals during robberies resulting in violent experiences. Furthermore, police reports indicate high sexual crime rates against children in South Africa. The purpose of Child Series Volume II: Crime Against Children is to identify the extent of the problem in South Africa.

By Staff Reporter

Shocking statistics revealed in a report titled Child Series Volume II: Crime Against Children by Statistics South Africa show a disturbing rise in rape cases involving children, with an alarming 6.3 percentage point increase between 2015/16 and 2019/20.

The fact that common assault and assault with grievous bodily harm both decreased by 2.1 and 3.5 percentage points is overshadowed by the heartbreaking 1.4 percentage point increase in sexual assault cases among children.

“Crimes against children are a grave concern, as it significantly affects the mental, physical, and emotional health of children. Healing from the trauma of abuse can be a prolonged process spanning several years. Ensuring children are safeguarded against any type of violence is a fundamental right secured by the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” said StatsSA.

South Africa has high rates of reported violent offences, encompassing murder, rape, aggravated assault, robbery, property crime, and vehicle hijacking. Among these, rape emerged as the most frequently reported crime to law enforcement for children aged 17 and below between 2015/16 and 2019/20, followed by common assault and assault resulting in GBH.

“A comparison between the total reported cases of rape and sexual assault to police compared to those registered for children aged 17 years and younger shows consistently higher per capita rape and assault rates among children.

“The per capita rate of rape among children rose from 96 per 100,000 children in 2015/2016 to 103 per 100,000 children in 2018/2019, before declining to 95 per 100,000 children in 2019/2020. However, the total per capita rape rate remained steady at 70 per 100,000 population from 2015/2016 onwards.

“Sexual assault rates were notably lower compared to rape rates, but per capita, sexual assault was nearly twice as high among children as it was in the general population. In 2015/2016, per capita sexual assault stood at 20 per 100,000 children compared to 10 per 100,000 total population.”

During the 2019/20 period, Kwazulu-Natal had the highest number of reported rape cases at 20.2%, while the Western Cape had the highest prevalence of sexual assault cases at 24.6%.

In the same year, females under the age of 17 were more susceptible to abduction, rape, sexual assault, child trafficking, and attempted common robbery. On the other hand, males under 17 were more prone to being victims of murder, assault causing grievous bodily harm, attempted murder, common robbery, and common assault.

“The consequences of child sexual abuse typically encompass teenage pregnancy, diminished self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness, a lack of trust in adults, and a distorted perception of sexuality. Depending on the severity of these repercussions, some children may even develop suicidal tendencies or engage in self-harm.

“South Africa has implemented numerous regulations, policies, and programs, including provisions in the 1996 Constitution, aimed at safeguarding children and preventing crimes against them. Additionally, SA adheres to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. This underscores the country’s dedication to ensuring compliance with international and regional standards in achieving child rights and leaving no child behind.”

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