Child protection is everyone’s business

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Pretoria – The Gauteng MEC for Health, Dr Gwen Ramokgopa, has called on everyone to play their part in protecting children. 

“All adults have a responsibility to protect children so that they can develop optimally, be happy and have a bright and productive future. 

“It’s important for kids to be mindful of safety tips... Children need to be continuously [reminded] to report adults who make uncomfortable gestures,” the MEC said.   

MEC Ramokgopa on Saturday visited Nthabiseng Thuthuzela Care Centre at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital as part of Child Protection Week. The week is observed annually to raise awareness of the rights of children. 

The MEC said youth need to be alert of individuals who lure them into instant gratification benefits. 

“Not only are there health related risks like pregnancy, HIV, cancers, alcoholism and mental health problems, but also the possibility of being victims of human trafficking, abused and even getting killed. 

“Most people who harm children are well known to them or close to their families, hence parents and guardians have a responsibility to always watch the behaviour of children and their surroundings. These perpetrators like to threaten children not to tell anyone about their experience,” MEC Ramokgopa said. 

The Gauteng Health Department sees over 5 700 cases of child sexual assaults a year. 

“The statistics remain the tip of the iceberg, as perpetrators are commonly known to the children. Parents and guardians need to take time to communicate and listen to children. 

“Our government has, through the Child Protection Act, put the responsibility on all professionals in the South African Police Service (SAPS), health system, social workers and justice system to take action if they suspect that a child is vulnerable. 

“The act is taking effect and more survivors are identified, counselled and assisted to access justice,” the department said. 

It said while children are empowered through legislation, the onus still rests with parents and care givers to protect them. 

MEC Ramokgopa said as child abuse keeps taking place, new ways must be crafted to protect the nation’s young.

“I’m very concerned that crimes against children have reached epidemic proportions in our country and we seriously need to look at new and better ways of intercepting the cycle of this pandemonium. 

“We have really made progress but we should be ashamed that children are hurt by adults in the land of democracy, where their rights are protected by the Constitution and other related laws. 

“Working with NGOs, sister departments and research institutions, we need to understand the profile of the abusers and be able to more preventative,” said the MEC. –