ONLINE—ECPAT International and Family for Every Child recently hosted a joint webinar on 22 March 2023 to facilitate information sharing on emerging research and practices addressing the sexual violence and exploitation of boys in Southern and East Africa.
Blessing Mutama, a Development Practitioner at FOST, presented the outcomes from a recent study on sexual violence against boys in Zimbabwe that examined the nature and forms of sexual violence experienced, alongside the underlying factors placing boys at risk. The research found that boy survivors not only receive limited support but are also not recognised as victims of sexual violence in the eyes of the law. Mutama emphasised the pressing need to address these gaps by aligning existing laws and policies to address the needs of all children, without discrimination or prejudice. In Mutama’s words:
“When we talk about child protection, it includes both boys and girls. We need to provide equal protection to both groups of children.”
Suzanne Clulow, Child Advocacy Manager at Children in Distress Network, discussed the organisation’s research on the correlation between dominant notions of masculinity and the prevalence of sexual abuse and harmful sexual behaviours in boys. Clulow revealed concerning disparities in how society perceives the behaviour of boys versus girls, with boys often viewed as less vulnerable:
“Boys are often not seen as vulnerable, so they are largely unsupervised from quite a young age. When they are abused, boys are seen to be able to protect themselves from abuse and be less harmed by the abuse.”
Due to a lack of supervision and care, some boys may exhibit harmful sexual behaviour and other forms of violence, often confused with homosexuality. To address these issues, Children in Distress Network has developed two training programmes leveraging their research in the field. At the community level, awareness-raising workshops are conducted with parents and caregivers to reframe biases and social norms towards boys. The organisation also runs accredited training programmes for the social services workforce to improve responsiveness to the needs of boys.
Elize Prins, Regional Programmes Coordinator at LifeLine/ChildLine Namibia, shared insights into their multi-disciplinary approach to working with boy survivors of sexual exploitation and abuse. In addition to counselling services, the organisation has developed parenting programmes and male engagement activities that allow boys to interact with male champions and facilitators. A key insight gained from their work with boy survivors is that group activities, such as sports or discussion forums, provide a platform for boys to engage in social interactions and foster emotional openness. Ensuring the staff are well-equipped to support boys is also critical to the success of the programmes:
“As an organisation, we capacitate, monitor, and mentor staff to manage any internalised biases on gender and sexuality does not influence their work with boys.”
Webinar participants agreed on the need for continuous collaboration and information sharing to develop a comprehensive understanding of how sexual violence affects boys and how to better support them.
Watch the full webinar below:
ABOUT ECPAT INTERNATIONAL
ECPAT International is a global network of 124 civil society organisations, in more than 100 countries, working towards the vision of ending the sexual exploitation of children. With over 30 years of experience in engaging and managing multi-stakeholder processes and partnerships at the national, regional and global levels, ECPAT works to end the sexual exploitation of children.
ABOUT FAMILY FOR EVERY CHILD
Family for Every Child is an alliance of 46 civil society organizations in 38 countries, to prevent family separations, strengthen families, ensure high-quality alternative care when needed, and protect children outside of any care. The organization’s intervention with boys includes a portfolio of prevention of sexual violence consisting of 24 member organizations from four continents.