Joint Submission by the Alliance for Children’s Entitlement to Social Security (ACESS) and the Children’s Rights Centre

March 2002

The Alliance for Children’s Entitlement to Social Security (ACESS) wishes to commend of Parliament of South Africa for establishing this Intersectoral Task Team on the Sexual Abuse of Children. It gives us no joy and likewise this must be true for many others who have come before us in being here today to talk about a heinous crime against the children of this country.

In acknowledging the importance of these hearings ACESS wishes to urge the Task Team to actively reach out to stakeholders not adequately represented during these proceedings. Given that children constitute just under half the population of South Africa and that as citizenship knows no age, ACESS believes that they have a right to participate in issues which directly impact them.

This Task Team is however reminded that facilitating children’s participation must be carefully planned and implemented so as to protect them from secondary trauma and abuse which such a process may unintentionally impose on them.

ACESS hopes that this Task Team will resolve to identify both immediate actions which can contribute to reducing and mitigating the impact of child sexual abuse as well as in identifying and addressing the long term structural and societal factors which increase children’s vulnerability to abuse and neglect. Failing to address both these aspects will mean a BAND AID response which is not defensible.

South African Constitutional Protection of the Rights of the Child :
It is important that we remind ourselves about the provisions of our constitution which are aimed at promoting the rights of the child

Every one has the right to have access to social security and to social assistance if they are unable to support themselves or their dependants. The state is required to take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to achieve the progressive realisation of this right.
Section 27(1)(c).

Children have the right to shelter, basic nutrition, basic health care services and social services.
Section 28(1)(c).

Children have the right to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation.
Section 28 (1) (d)

ACESS’s submission has been framed within this context.

Extent of Child Sexual Violence in South Africa

It is widely accepted that police records reflect an underestimation of the magnitude of the incidence of sexual assault and rape of children. However the are the only available source of data and hence are referred to.

SA Police statistics for the period 1996 – 1999 indicated that 40 % of the survivors of rape or attempted rape were under the age of 18 years.

The South African Demographic and Health Survey undertaken by the Department of Health in 1999 in all provinces also confirmed this trend and found that victims between the age of 15 – 19 years were twice as likely to report rape as compared with those older in the 45-49 age bracket

Of major concern to the child rights sector is the nature of data collection on women and children. Much of the statistics collected disaggregates children as those under 15 and women as those over 16 years of age.

This is problematic because those between the ages of 16 and 18 are clearly recognized both in our Constitution and in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as "children" This kind of data collection creates two problems, firstly that it reflects an under reporting of the incidence of child rape and secondly that the states obligations to children and to adults are conflated. It is not acceptable that children over 16 (some of whom are mothers" and almost all of whom are victims of coerced sexual activity are viewed differently in terms of service delivery

This is also important in that research evidence on sexual violence perpetrated against children reveals that (1/3) a third of childhood rapes were perpetrated by school teachers and a quarter were perpetrated by relatives. Another study also found that more children under the age of 16 were likely to have been abused by known perpetrators then older women

About a third of the child rapes involved multiple perpetrators.

Drawing by a child during the ACESS Child Participation project

Factors important in understanding the high incidence of Child Sexual Violence in South Africa

Myth of Sexual Cleansing
While there is anecodatal evidence of this myth that sex with a virgin will cleanse an HIV+ person there is no empirical data on how widely this is acted on.

Fear of HIV
A more serious and prevalent problem is that the fear of contracting HIV is driving some men towards violent rape and assault against younger partners in the hope that they are free from the HIV Virus.

Research evidence presented by Pieter le Roux suggests that 55 % of South Africa’s population survives on under $ 2 per day and that there are approximately 12 million very poor individuals who have access to less then a $ 1 per day. Women’s share of unemployment is 52 % and 43 % of men are unemployed. There are estimated 5.9 million unemployed people in South Africa and a further 2-3 million who are employed but earn very low wages. This category includes domestic workers, farm labourers and other non unionised workers in South Africa.

Within this context of poverty children’s share of poverty is disproportionate with over 60 % of South Africa’s children deemed to be living in poverty. According to IDASA this equates to 10.2 million children between 0-18 years of age.

Vulnerability of Young Mothers
South Africa has a high level of teenage pregnancies and given the high level of unemployment in South Africa and the lack of social safety nets for these young women they are often exposed to situations in which they are forced/coerced into sexual activities against their will.

Case Study: Commercial sex work for survival

Research undertaken in uThukela Region (2000) confirms this. In interviews with young girls and women between the ages of 16 and 25 at least a quarter admitted to engaging in commercial sex work as a way of bringing some income into their households.

" I have no option, either my family dies of no food now or maybe I will get sick and die in 10 years time"
Girl, 18 year old

Households in Poverty

An equally serious problem experienced by households in poverty is that often the mother or primary care giver has to go out to seek work to support the household.

Due to limited resources many children are left with caregivers who are not suitable. Some caregivers are motivated to care for additional income (albeit as limited as it may be). Households in poverty don’t have a wide range of affordable care options to explore and hence their children’s care is often compromised. In the recent widely publicised incidences this was clearly the situation. This results in situations where unintentionally or intentionally children well being and care is neglected and the consequences are increased vulnerability of young children to sexual abuse

High levels of alcohol addiction among young unemployed people is also a major predisposing factor for children to be abused.

Environments in which the poor reside

Children in both rural and urban areas often have to walk long distances and in unsafe areas on their way to and from school. In addition the lack of adequate provisioning of shelter and housing compromises the care of children.

Between August 2001 and December 2001 ACESS facilitated a consultation with children across South Africa to seek their views on the kind of social security needed for children.

Here are some of their VOICES

Children’s Voices

"We have to walk long distances to school and there are men who abuse women"
(Girl, aged 15)

My problem is my house is surrounded by many bushes and I am alone most of the time. I am afraid. It is standing alone.
(Girl, aged 18)

"This is a very small house we lived in. I used to say with my mon, my two brothers and my step father. ……. It was not nice to stay there cos I was a teenager. I needed my own privacy. It was very hard because my step father was there and I had to wash myself. I had to wash myself in the toilet."
(Girl, aged 14, now living in a street shelter)

Understanding Child Poverty
In the section above we have sketched a picture of poverty and how it impacts on households and children in particular.
Child Poverty is not well understood. It is defined as situations in which children grow up:

Without access to basic services.
In households with inadequate resources to provide for the childs needs
In families and communities where the ability to nurture and protect children (a key responsibility of adults) is seriously constrained or undermined by societal factors.

The numbers of South African children living in absolute poverty - is unacceptable More especially if we take cognisance of the fact that current demographic trends which are likely to remain with us reveal that children make up half of our population and that in the context of illness and death arising from HIV/AIDS this percentage is likely to grow and this means even more vulnerable and at risk children.

Manifestations of Child Poverty

Child poverty manifests itself in many ways in South Africa -:
The inequitable allocation of services and inadequate quality or level of service provisioning to rural communities and to children in particular difficult circumstances (such as children living on the streets) is one such example. Specialised courts, access to social service workers and provision of alternate care for children in those circumstances is extremely inadequate and what is current available is largely due to the initiatives of the non profit sector. The limited number of professionals in the social sector to provide trauma councelling, therapeutic treatment interventions and promote preventative measures to ensure protection of children remains a serious obstacle to the implementation of many of the policies and programmes which the state has or intends to initiate to address these issues.

The inadequate allocation of resources to key social service departments and spending for children as well as of allocations to selected provinces where some of these issues affect children more severely then in others

Lack of comprehensive health care provisioning
Health care is an integral component of a comprehensive safety net yet in South Africa free health care is limited in terms of who is targeted and the nature of health provisioning is also severely limited.

Within the context of South Africa’s HIV/AIDS pandemic the failure of the state to implement programmes such as Mother to Child Transmission reduction programmes. provision of Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP’s) for victims of rape as well as the provision of anti-retrovirals to enable HIV+ people to live healthier lives is a travesty of justice and of the constitutionally given rights of affected people to adequate health care , the right to life etc.

It is important to note that the risks associated with transmission of the HIV/AIDS virus is higher during rape then during consensual sex due to the high number of documented reports of genital injury which occur during rape.

A critical consideration is that provisioning of PEP’s has been shown to halve the number of orphans. Orphanhood in South Africa is predicted to be between 1.5 and 2 million by the year 2010 if treatment protocols remain

Access to affordable medicines, treatments and vaccines is an essential aspect of a childs right to health

Absence of a Comprehensive Social Security System for vulnerable households in South Africa

The current social security system is fragmented and is non-comprehensive, with poor children between the ages of seven and eighteen not catered for, nor those infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. The main social security provision is the Child Support Grant of R 130 per child under the age of 7 years. This means tested grant is currently only accessed by approximately 1.5 million children and has a strong urban bias to its delivery.

It is important to note that the grant since inception has not kept up with inflation and hence its true value is approximately R 101 at present. A further point to note is that the Means tested level has also not been adjusted for inflation and as a result of growing unemployment and poverty decreases the number of eligible children. There are also major administrative problems and delays in accessing this grant like all other grants.

From a broader perspective, the whole social security net currently provided by the government fails to cover a large proportion of the population, that of unemployed adults and children over 7 years of age. Due to the chronic structural unemployment in the country, these people are not likely to find jobs. Thus it is the poverty, inequality and underdevelopment in the country, which undermine the effectiveness of any existing interventions for children.

For example, in a poor household of six people, the money being received for two children under 7 years, feeds the entire family, and thus the children’s specific needs are not met. The fact that there is no social security for unemployed adults creates a situation where individuals and households structure themselves around the grant recipients, namely the elderly or children, thus undermining their benefits.

Thus it is the failure of the entire social security system to cater for the needs of vulnerable people that undermines the benefits to children of the existing child grants.

Barriers and Obstacles to access to Health Care and Social Security and Social Services

ACESS defines social security as a comprehensive package of benefits and services available to all vulnerable people in order to enable them to realise their fullest potential.

This broader concept of social security encompasses the following -:

Access to the highest quality of health care in terms of preventing ill health and provision of treatment where this is required.
Access to basic and free education for all children, without having to pay user fees.
Access to social services including social work councilling, victim empowerment support, access to justice and the provision of basic needs for survival including access to adequate shelter and infrastructure
Right of Access to social security measures to ensure that vulnerable households and children in those households do not fall through due to lack of financial means.

Recommendations from ACESS and Children’s Rights Centre to the Task Team on Sexual Abuse of Children

In view of the foregoing ACESS and the CRC put forward the following recommendations -:

Introduce a Comprehensive Social Security System for All South Africans – A Basic Income Grant (BIG)is proposed which is universal and non means tested. A BIG will recognise that children’s interest are intrinsically bound with those of their caregivers and that anti-poverty measures must recognise the needs of caregivers as well.
Immediately take actions to improve ACCES to the Child Support Grant. This will include scraping the means test, increasing the targeting age to 18, work towards improving administration of social security provisioning
Revisit the Care dependency Grant criteria to include those who are HIV+. This is aimed at ensuring that those infected with the HIV+ can receive a grant for their disability. This will enable children who have been infected by the virus (through rape) to receive adequate care and support
Improve Health Care delivery for those who have been victims of sexual abuse. This will include immediate access to PEP’s and to Anti-retroviral treatments.
Increase and improve the quality of care and support provided to victims of violence.
This will include providing incentives to health and social service workers to work in rural communities and to the provision of funding to NGO’s to extend their services to reach more people in remote rural areas.
Radically restructure the budgetary allocations and commitments to social service spending
to address the impact that child poverty has on children in South Africa to both mitigate and prevent increased suffering.

South Africa is urged to adopt the United Nations 20/20 Initiative which is aimed at encouraging both donor governments and institutions to direct more than 20 % of their resources to social spending and to encourage developing country governments to do likewise with their domestic expenditure.


Kim. J. (2000) Rape and HIV Post Exposure Prophyaxis, Paper presented at WHO Meeting on Violence Against Women and HIV/AIDS, Geneva October 2000.

Motala, S. (2000) Rapid Appraisal of the Impact of HIV/AIDs on communities in the Okhalamba Region.

IDASA, 2001, Presentation to the Port Folio Committee on Social Development, 14/3/2001.

ACESS, 2002, Submission to the Peoples Budget Campaign.

CARE (2001),Monograph No 4., Impact of AIDS on orphanhood in South Africa –A Qualitative Analysis.