370 children subject to sexual violence in last 4 years, says government body

The National Council for Motherhood and Childhood (NCMC) said that 370 children were subject to various types of sexual abuse in the past four years, NCMC general coordinator Azza Ashmawy told the official Middle East News Agency (MENA) on Thursday.

Ashmawy said that cases of rape and sexual assault against children have been on the rise since the outbreak of the January 25 revolution and the security vacuum that ensued, adding that the issue also has cultural, social and economic roots.

The figure NCMC reported is based on the complaints received by the council through its hotline (16000) and its media center, adding that the council received 206 complaints in the last four years, in which 370 children experienced sexual abuse.

Children aged four to six years old were the main age group that was targeted, Ashmawy said, while children in the age groups of 10-12 and 16-18 years old came second. Children aged seven to nine and 13-15 years old came third, and children aged one to three were the least targeted age group.

But General Secretary of the Egyptian Coalition on Children’s Rights Hany Helal questioned the accuracy of the figure.

“Child abuse crimes that are reported to authorities represent only ten percent of the total number of cases, at most. The way NCMC came to this figure is completely inaccurate,” Helal told Mada Masr.

Helal explained that the social stigma associated with these kind of crimes prevents families of these children to report sexual abuse cases. For him, the Child Law detailed certain policies to counter this, but these policies never implemented.

“We need to establish more socially-driven mechanisms to collect real statistics on the issue of child abuse. Depending on merely numerical techniques, like using the national hotline, is not effective because it only takes into consideration those who had the courage to report these crimes,” he asserted.

The child rights expert said that these techniques include setting up child protection committees that are formed in every neighborhood, which should be moderated by local leaders and civil society organizations that conduct social fieldwork to research such cases. These committees are more able to establish stronger social connections with families in order to report on sexual violence cases.

“In addition, the role of school-based social workers is essential, because they are the ones most experienced with recognizing children who are subject to sexual violence in schools and child care centers,” Helal added.

Ashmawy said that it has become increasingly difficult to document the cases of sexual abuses against children inside child care centers.

“There should be a political will from the state’s side to confront child abuse issues in Egypt, and I have to say this will doesn’t exist,” Helal said.

The problem of street children makes the case ever worsening, as they are more vulnerable to systematic sexual abuse than other children.

“Street children face child abuse every day, and these cases are never documented simply because we do not know the exact number of street children till now,” Helal added.

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