Ritualistic child sexual abuse in South-Kivu Province, Eastern DRC
Kasherwa, Amani Clovis
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This study investigated ritualistic child sexual abuse in Eastern DRC. The analysis was mainly centred on describing the different forms of ritual-based violence against children, examining the factors associated with ritualistic child sexual abuse, describing the effects of ritualistic child sexual abuse and analysing the existing mechanisms for addressing ritual violence against children in post conflict eastern DRC. Using an exploratory research design, the study adopted qualitative methodology to collect and analyse data. The participants in the study were selected through purposive sampling techniques and involved primary participants (parents and children victims) and key informants (physicians, nurses, child protection officers, civil society activists, police officers, administrative authorities and detained perpetrators). Data was collected through semi-structured individual interviews, FGDs, documentation, and observation. The study findings indicated that the forms and magnitude of RCSA vary from location to location and with regards to the interests of the abusers. Dominant forms of RCSA include Child kidnapping for sexual assault, incestuous sexual abuse, child sexual exploitation and cult-based child marriage. The factors associated with RCSA in eastern DRC include magical practices and superstitious beliefs, socioeconomic interests, political factors, developmental disorder and drug addiction among perpetrators. In other words, the factors associated with RCSA are linked to both the abuser’s personal background and to the victim’s social environment. Although the study established a high interdependency between the different factors associated with RCSA, superstitious belief about childhood and virginity remained the most important trigger of many cases of RCSA. However, such superstitious perceptions were not all the times associated with the child sex offenders’ involvement in magical conspiracy; many child molesters only acted on the basis of mere superstitions or prior to allegations they heard from peers without being directly involved in any child abuse-related conspiracy. Research evidence also indicated that RCSA leads to far-reaching short-term, mid-term and long-term aftermaths and there is a need to address the phenomenon from its deep roots to prevent its incidence and mitigate its effects on the local communities and families. Finally, the research findings in this study indicated that the existing CP mechanisms in a post-war context are weakened and inadequate to respond to the different child protection concerns. The study suggested important recommendations at micro, macro and meso levels to address the root causes of RCSA and mitigate its outcomes from a holistic and concerted response and prevention perspective. Such recommendations should be implemented within a wider framework of multiple stakeholders for combatting RCSA in post-war eastern DRC.