After a 10-day trip to Benin, United Nations expert Najat Maalla M’jid spoke out against a number of children’s rights violations in the country and urged the government of Benin to make the protection of children a priority.
“It is unacceptable that so many, too many, children in Benin are victims of violence, abuse or exploitation on the pretext of traditions, customs or poverty,” she said.
In particular, Maalla M’jid spoke with concern of the practice of sending children to live with other members of their family where the children normally end up serving as a source of labor, either at home or in the fields. These children are rarely sent to school and serve, instead, at the needs of their relatives. In some cases, children are sold to strangers and enter into the market of human trafficking and exploitation.
Additionally, Malla M’jid expressed concern at the sexual violence and harassment endured by girls, especially in schools.
“Schools are supposed to be an environment where children can feel safe – not places were girls are abused with total impunity,” she said.
The issue in Benin is not a lack of laws against such abuses and violations, but a lack of implementation. This is partly due to little access to justice mechanisms. Issues are usually resolved on a local level with traditional authorities, where the rights and voice of the child are rarely heard over those of the adults.