Four-year-old Janna died in hospital after being raped by her uncle and tortured by her maternal grandmother. Her tragic death has thrown a spotlight onto the often concealed problem of violence against children.
The National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM) issued a statement condemning the circumstances leading up to Janna’s death. NCCM Secretary-General Azza Al-Ashmawi told Al-Ahram Weekly that anyone who abuses children, whether physically or psychologically, should face the harshest sentences mandated by the law.
“Janna was the victim of torture and of premeditated murder torture, which are capital crimes under articles 230 and 231 of the Egyptian penal code,” said Al-Ashmawi.
The NCCM is following closely the investigation the prosecutor-general into Janna’s death. Janna’s sister, six-year-old Amany, was also abused by her grandmother. Amany has now been taken into care and is receiving psychological support from the NCCM.
“We are currently looking for a guardian or suitable home for Amany,” says Ashmawi.
A 2017 study by the Egyptian Foundation for Advancement of the Childhood Condition (EFACC) in 2017 reported 1,000 incidents of abuse a month direct at children, including kidnappings, rape and murder.
EFACC also reports that corporal punishment is routinely used against children. According to an EFACC survey 93 per cent of children between one and 14 years are exposed to violent disciplinary practices.
A 2014 UNICEF study on violence committed against children in Cairo, Alexandria and Assiut found two thirds of children in the areas covered had been subject to physical abuse, and 78 per cent were victims of emotional violence. The study highlighted the fact that both children and adults find corporal punishment an acceptable means of discipline. A statistical analysis of violence against children in the same report concluded that worldwide, one billion children between the ages of two and 14 suffer regular physical punishment and almost one in four girls between the age of 15 and 19 experienced physical violence.
The UNICEF study called on Egypt and other countries to adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards violence against children, and to encourage parents, care givers and school staff to use positive discipline methods.
Egypt’s 2014 constitution, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the Egyptian Child Law all stipulate children have the right to a life void of violence at home, school, in public places and among their peers.