The Ministry of Women Empowerment and the Family (MINPROFF) recently launched a national campaign against child sexual abuse in Cameroon. Through this initiative, the government wants to tackle the issue by focusing on child sexual exploitation in the tourism industry.
"The sexual exploitation of children directly violates their rights, undermines human dignity, and hinders the economic and social development of a nation. Breaking a child's life through sexual exploitation not only inflicts immediate harm but also diminishes their prospects for integration into society," says Marie Thérèse Abena Ondoa, the Minister of Women Empowerment, at the launch of the campaign in Soa, last October 24.
The campaign runs until October 11, 2024, the International Day of the Girl Child. It aims to inform Cameroonians of the consequences of child sex tourism and to encourage the public to take action by denouncing any criminal behavior they may witness. This initiative comes amid rising cases of child sexual abuse in the country, according to the associations and lawyers leading the fight against this phenomenon that affects both genders with girls paying the heaviest price.
Marie Thérèse Abena Ondoa acknowledges that "child sexual abuse is becoming increasingly commonplace in our society". Yet, she points out, Cameroon has ratified "almost all" the legal instruments for the promotion and protection of children's rights. Notably, the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography, ratified in October 2020. In 2016, the country created a national child protection platform.
In recent years, the government, in partnership with Unicef, has set up procedures better adapted to the social context, to coordinate prevention, reporting, care, and reintegration of child victims of violence, according to the authorities. Despite these efforts, "it has to be said that, over the years, the rate of violence against children in our country has hardly fallen," the MINPROFF says pointing out that despite the laws punishing the abuses, they go unpunished because of the law of silence.
This underscores the need to pool our goodwill to combat the scourge, she stresses. "The various administrations, tourism operators, administrative, municipal, traditional, religious and military authorities, parents, communities, educators, and the media - each in their way must play their part to achieve the desired objective. (...) We have a year of deep reflection, open exchange, unrestricted sharing, and ambitious, bold projections ahead of us, if we want to turn back the tide of child sexual violence in our country," she says.
Patricia Ngo Ngouem