Neglect and Abuse of Children

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Child neglect is a form of child abuse that affects a child’s development. Any intentional harm or mistreatment to a child under 18 years old is considered child abuse. Child abuse takes place in many forms, which often happen at the same time. Ignoring a child’s needs, putting them in unsupervised, dangerous situations, exposing them to sexual situations, or making them feel worthless or stupid are also forms of child abuse and neglect and they can leave deep scars on kids. Regardless of the type of abuse, the result is often serious emotional harm.

Emotional abuse can affect a child’s mental health and can be reported to the emergency number, ChildLine South Africa, at any time on their toll-free number at 08000 55 555.

The country’s constitution is very clear about the rights, dignity, and protection of children in South Africa. The Bill of Rights section 18, states, “every child has the right to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse, and degradation.” These rights are in the best interest of children. They are meant to protect them from any harm. Under this law, a case of neglect can be reported to the court and a social worker will be sent to investigate. Social workers do not want to break up families. They must try to help parents become better at looking after their children. Only if the social worker thinks a child is in danger will the law be used to remove a child from the family house.

According to the Optimus National Prevalence Study, it is estimated that 42% of South Africa’s children have experienced some form of ill-treatment and 82% have either experienced or witnessed some form of abuse.

Child neglect has become a norm in South Africa as parents fail to provide for a child’s basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, love and affection or much-needed medical care.

This article is an opinion piece submitted on 24 February 2023. The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of Karibu! Online or Khanya College. You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and Karibu! Online (, and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.

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