Abuse killing our children
MORE than 1018 South African children were murdered in 2009, but the figure could be higher, according to a study by the Medical Research Council on child murders.
"As a nation we are actually failing our children if we do not look at how to prevent these deaths," Dr Shanaaz Mathews, a researcher at MRC, said yesterday.
The report indicated that policies and practices in relation to the protection of children were having little effect in keeping children safe in their homes and communities.
Nearly half of the murder cases recorded in the study, more than 44%, were the result of child abuse and neglect. More than a third, 35%, of child abuse were because of abandonment within the first week after birth.
The study found that almost three quarters of these cases occurred among children younger than four. In this age group, 54.5% of cases involved girls.
In all the older age groups, significantly more of the victims were also girls.
Mathews said the study showed child murders had a distinct age and gender pattern.
The study highlighted abandoned babies, fatal child abuse and interpersonal violence affecting mostly teenage boys.
The study revealed excessive rates of teenage male murders, with these deaths related to the use of weapons in the context of interpersonal violence.
It also showed that children were mostly killed by a known person who was not related, which was most common for boys.
The second-most frequent perpetrator group involved female parents - nearly half of all murders of girls were perpetrated by mothers.
Mathews said South Africa had progressive legislation around abortion and that contraception services were readily available. "Why are women abandoning babies?" she asked.
South Africa needed a friendlier adoption service where women know their options, she said.