Boys are neglected and marginalised when it comes to child protection in South Africa.
Leading child rights advocates say boys are as prone to being abused as girls‚ yet prevention programmes continue to focus on the fairer sex.
This emerged at the weekend at the annual Child Trauma Conference in Durban‚ where child rights specialist Joan van Niekerk called on South Africans to go back to teaching boys how to be good men.
The Optimus Foundation found in a 2016 study that one in three girls and one in three boys will be sexually abused before age 18.
Girls appear to suffer more contact abuse‚ and boys more non-contact abuse. The big challenge‚ say the experts‚ is that the vast majority of boys never report their sexual abuse.
“We need to attend to the neglect and marginalisation of the boy child and ensure that there are boy-friendly services that facilitate disclosure [of abuse]. The empowerment of women and girls is important‚ but a very Westernised concept‚” Van Niekerk said.
She added that South Africans needed to “go back to teaching boys how to be good men”.
She lambasted politicians for being poor role models for boys.
“In working with children who have been abused and traumatised‚ we see that gender bias goes both ways. Men are most often seen as either protectors or aggressors‚ women are most often seen as either nurturers or victims‚” said Marita Rademeyer‚ head of Jelly Beanz Inc‚ which offers trauma counselling to children.
Dr Shaheda Omar‚ clinical director of the Teddy Bear Clinic‚ said: “We need to engage more consistently and more vigorously with boys and men out there. We need to start mobilising them to get more involved and taking responsibility to ensure the safety and protection of females. But it’s not only females who are being violated. If you look at the statistics of males‚ it is definitely under reported. They’re not coming out. It means that their masculinity is brought into question.”