By Ella Anokam
Abuja – A tutor, Mrs Brenda Bepeh, has called for severe punishment for anyone found guilty of child abuse in Nigeria.
Bepeh made the call on Saturday in a paper at a seminar on “Child Care and Abuse’’ , organised by the Catholic Women Organisation (CWO), Christ the King Church (CKC), Kurudu, Abuja.
Bepeh, the Proprietress of FRANGREG Academy, Kurudu, said that if child abuse perpetrators were appropriately punished, others wishing to do so would be deterred.
In her paper, “Hidden Scars: Ending Violence against Children in Nigeria’’, Bepeh said a child could be abused emotionally, sexually, physically and neglected by parents, caregivers and guardians.
The tutor said possible signs of an abused child were injuries, burns, bite marks, sudden change in behaviour, loss of appetite, depression, among others.
She said an abused child was always withdrawn, feared to go home after school and displayed some promiscuous behaviour among peers.
Bepeh charged parents and caregivers to always enforce correction instead of punishment.
She described child sexual abusers as predators, who tended to target children who lacked love, confidence, self-esteem and played a role in the child’s life faking to be caring.
Bepeh advised parents and guardians not to encourage parcels, sexual contact and unwanted favours from such predators , who were mostly related or close to the family.
“They always offer sympathetic ear pretending to proffer solution to the targeted child’s family,’’ she said.
Bepeh decried fathers who sexually abused their daughters or encouraged incestuous behaviour.
According to her, a child should be taught about child abuse immediately she/he starts talking to reduce the practice.
She further advised parents that a child could be beaten but stressed that there was a difference between correcting a child and abusing him or her in case of wrong behaviour.
“Parents or guardians should also be careful about what they do around children because they tend to learn from what they see easily,’’ Bepeh said.
Mrs Theresa Odenigbo, the CWO President, urged children to feel free to report to their caregivers and teachers if their parents were neglecting their reports at home.
“When you don’t have security and support in your homes due to being abused by your father or guardian please speak up because the government will take up the matter for your own good,’’ she said.
According to her, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and related organisations are ready to take up any matter in order to rehabilitate the child and persecute the offender.
Rev. Fr. Stephen Ugwu, the Associate Priest of CKC, advised parents, caregivers and guardians to be careful while administering punishment on children to avoid physical abuse.
“It is left for the appropriate authority to administer punishment accordingly, it will not be good to spare the rod and spoil the child.
“But do not batter a child rather give the child small lashes of cane to correct a wrongdoing,’’ the priest said.
He also advised mothers not to conceal their husbands’ illicit acts to their children, especially in the case of incest.
The highpoint of the seminar was the distribution of copies of “Child Abuse and Way Out’’, a book written by Mrs Theresa Ezema, the Programme Coordinator, to the participants.
World Health Organisation describes child abuse as maltreatment, physical and emotional ill treatment, sexual abuse, neglect, commercial exploitation that results in potential harm to a child.