Gender differentiated pathways to understanding child abuse and neglect in Uganda : exigencies in the post conflict Northern Uganda
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The study investigated the post conflict gender differentiated pathways to understanding Child Abuse and Neglect in Gulu, Lira and Kitgum districts, northern Uganda. Northern Uganda experienced a conflict for 2 decades (1986-2006). The experiences of the conflict left the entire population not only traumatized but also in extreme poverty, and up to present, children experience multiple vulnerabilities. The objectives of the study were to; ascertain the occurrence of different types of Child Abuse and Neglect, assess how household gender characteristics affected Child Abuse and Neglect, evaluate the efficacy of existing gender related policies on Child Abuse and Neglect and evaluate the available interventions. The study used mixed methods research design and specifically employed convergent parallel mixed methods. Qualitative and quantitative data were collected in parallel, analyzed separately and triangulated for comparison. Quantitative data was obtained from a sample of 104 children reported for abuse and/or neglect. Qualitative data was obtained from 13 abused and/or neglected children, 35 caregivers and/or parents, 12 key informants and 6 FGDs. Findings indicated that 65 percent of the girls and 35 percent boys were reported and included; 41 percent child sexual offences, 39 percent child neglect, 15 percent physical abuse and 5 percent emotional abuse. More males (57 percent) than females (43 percent) were reported as perpetrators for Child Abuse and Neglect. Factors emerging for persistent Child Abuse and Neglect were family breakdown, patriarchal attitudes, cultural norms and practices, laxity in parental roles and alcoholism. Efforts of policies like Universal Primary Education (UPE) policy (1997) and National Health Policy (NHP) (2010-2020) to mitigate Child Abuse and Neglect have not yet addressed the problem. More children (55 percent) were not in school and were more abused compared to those in school (45 percent). Medical services were accessible and free to children who sustained injuries resulting from abuse. The laws including the Children Amendment Act. 2016, Birth and Deaths Registration Act- Chapter 309 (1973) and Domestic Violence Act, 2010 have been enacted but caregivers and parents have continued to subject their children to different forms of abuses including domestic violence. Child Protection Committees (CPCs), Community Development Officers (CDO) and Family and Child Protection Unit within the police and para-social workers who work as volunteers on behalf of Non-Governmental Organizations were heavily involved in different Child Abuse and Neglect interventions such as identification, reporting and referral of cases for action, community dialogues and arresting of perpetrators. The study recommends holistic and gender-based approaches that strengthen parenting strategies which lead to restoration of family norms and values for better childcare practice. Among limitations of the study was lack of detailed information on cases of Child Abuse and Neglect that were recorded with child protection agencies, therefore only cases with details of the abused and/or neglected children and were traceable were eligible for the study.