If there were anything useful to be extracted from the horrible video of a child being slapped, stomped on and beaten with a shovel, it is the revealing glimpse it provides into the nightmares that dwell within the walls of private homes.
Most people take for granted the sanctity and safety of the home and are thus inclined to focus on the dangers facing children out on the street and in public spaces. The idea that home could provide an even more dangerous existence does not suggest itself. And yet, for so many children, sustained abuse at the hands of those to whom they look to for love and care, is the reality.
This is why communities and state entities are required to be alert, caring, involved and responsive. When it comes to the protection of children, there is a line to be drawn between parental rights and the state’s responsibility for protecting its citizens, especially the most vulnerable ones.
Given the mounting evidence of child abuse and family dysfunctionality, the yet-to-be-proclaimed Children’s Authority has its work cut out. It must prioritise public education as a means of public enlightenment about the rights of children, adult responsibility to them and the avenues of support for children at risk in troubled families.
The fact that so many people continue to advocate child beatings as a valid form of discipline, reveals a lot about the level of insecurity among adults and their inability to nurture healthy children through a combination of love and logic. Although not every child who is beaten becomes a criminal, it is a good guess that many criminals were beaten as children, while many law-abiding citizens carry the emotional scars of abuse right into adulthood.
The general collapse of societal norms requires close attention to the state of the family as the building block of society. In particular, we should ponder the meaning of these images of out-of-control women, beating and cursing children, and clearly overwhelmed and under-prepared for the responsibilities of motherhood. The notable absence in the videos of males and community elders is a potent symbol of the void in the lives of many children. While the law is there to intervene, protect and punish, these videos offer vivid testimony of the help so desperately needed by many mothers.
As a society we cannot go on lurching from one horror story to another, nor can we depend on the occasional Facebook video to find the children who are living with the horror of abuse. We must strengthen the reporting and response systems that bring them quickly to the attention of the authorities so that they can be rescued and helped.
Once again, therefore, we renew our call for the swift proclamation of the Children’s Act of 2012, the rapid activation of the Children’s Authority and the strengthening of the entire institutional framework of support and protection for our children.