Children Should be Safe, Not Hurt | Western Cape Government

Children Should be Safe, Not Hurt


Children Should be Safe, Not Hurt

Saturday 5 November 2011 was National Children's Day. The day highlights the importance of protecting the rights of children.

Children's Rights and the Constitution

Children's rights are protected by Section 28 of the Bill of Rights in the South African Constitution. These include the right to:

  • A name and nationality from birth.
  • Appropriate care by an adult.
  • Access to basic nutrition, shelter, health care and social services.
  • Protection from exploitive, inappropriate or dangerous work.
  • Protection from maltreatment, neglect or abuse.

Child abuse is a major problem in South Africa, and one of the main issues raised by National Children's Day.

Child Abuse in South Africa

Children are some of the most vulnerable members of our society. Many children suffer sexual or physical abuse on a daily basis. Abuse can take many forms and harm a child's development.

Many children in South Africa don't know how or where to report abuse, or don't have access to help. Many children and adults also don't understand what abuse is and the different forms it can take. Because of this, they might not even know that they are the victims or abusers.

The World Health Organization (WHO) gives a good definition of child abuse, and this can help us all understand what it is.

According to the WHO, "Child abuse or maltreatment constitutes all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child's health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power."

In other words, abuse is when someone in a position of responsibility, trust or power knowingly harms or exploits a child, either physically or emotionally.

Signs of Child Abuse

Child abuse can take many different forms, but here's some help to identify the signs:

  • Signs of Physical Abuse
    • Unexplained burns, cuts, bruises, or welts in the shape of an object.
    • Bite marks.
    • Anti-social behaviour.
    • Problems in school.
    • Fear of adults.
  • Signs of Emotional Abuse
    • Apathy.
    • Depression.
    • Hostility or stress.
    • Lack of concentration.
    • Eating disorders.
  • Signs of Sexual Abuse
    • Inappropriate interest or knowledge of sexual acts.
    • Nightmares and bed wetting.
    • Drastic changes in appetite.
    • Overcompliance or excessive aggression.
    • Fear of a particular person or family member.
  • Signs of Neglect
    • Unsuitable clothing for weather.
    • Dirty or unbathed.
    • Extreme hunger.
    • Apparent lack of supervision.

For more information and signs that indicate that a child is being abused you can read the following document from Childline - Recognising Child Abuse (54.75 kb).

Who Can Help?

  • Childline: 24-hour free helpline 0800 055 555

  • Childline Western Cape:
    Tel: 021 762 8198
    Address: 6 Roeland Street, Cape Town, 8001

  • South African Police Service (SAPS): Crime Stop number 08600 10111 or SAPS 10111

More Information

Sources: Constitutional Court of South Africa, Childline, Department of Social Development, Department of Health, Western Cape Education Department and the Department of Community Safety.

The content on this page was last updated on 15 March 2014