A national gender dialogue that discussed emerging child protection issues in Ghana has underscored the need for positive steps to address the wrong use of the Internet by children.
The dialogue identified that if nothing was done about the issue today, more children would fall victim to cyber sexual abuse in the years to come.
That, according to stakeholders at a panel discussion at a one-day dialogue session organised by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection in Accra on Tuesday (yesterday), has become necessary as more children have easy access to the Internet and are using it on the blind side of their parents or guardians.
According to a cyber expert, Ms Awo Aidam Amenyah of the ‘J’ Initiative, an NGO specialising in the area of cyber ICT, most parents are ignorant of what their children do on social media.
The Head of the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit of the Ghana Police Service, Rev. Mrs Lawrencia Akorlie, said reports on Internet pornography and child marriages were currently on the ascendancy in the country.
She said sexual explicitness on the Internet was also giving rise to the issues of incest among children, a situation which she said needed to be nipped in the bud.
Prof. Kofi Awusabo-Asare of the University of Cape Coast, who contributed to the discussions, called on parents to be more vigilant, as current social pressures made the children vulnerable to abuse.
In his contribution, a child activist, Mr Cromwell Awadey of International Needs, a child-centred NGO, called on stakeholders, including parents, traditional leaders and opinion leaders, to help in ensuring that stronger structures were put in place to ensure children were not exposed to the wrong use of the Internet.
A representative of children, Ms Victoria Quarnor, said children were exposed to issues of abuse right from school to the home.
She, therefore, called on parents, teachers and the entire society to be more sensitive to the needs of children, saying children of today were more curious than ever and, therefore, needed to be supported to tread on the right paths.
In her welcome address, the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Nana Oye Lithur, said the government had put in place policies and laws, all aimed at addressing some of the emerging child protection issues in the country.
She mentioned the policies and laws to include the ‘Child and Family Welfare Policy’, the ‘Children’s Act (Act 560)’, the ‘Domestic Violence Act (Act 732)’ and the ‘Human Trafficking Act’.
She said the government had put in place social protection interventions such as the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme, the Free School Uniform and the School Feeding Programme to ensure that children were kept in school.
The Country Representative of UNICEF, Ms Susan Ndongo, said presently the issue of child protection could not be ignored, as many children were already exposed to it. She said UNICEF was ready to fund a study which would help in addressing the issue of child protection in the online space.
The AfDB Resident Representative, Mrs Marie-Laure Akin-Olugbade, in a statement, called for concrete steps to be taken to curb child abuse in society and called for education on emotional control for parents, teachers and people who, through their work, came into contact with children.
A 17-year-old child advocate, Master Eugene Odoi, who chaired the dialogue session, said “for a country where there is increasing acceptance of what constitutes children’s rights, it is unacceptable that we continue to hear about cases of abuse on a regular basis”.
Source: Daily Graphic