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Commitment 4: The legal system

The laws of a country, as well as how the legal system works, make a real difference to boys experiences of sexual violence.

What’s the problem?

Our report Caring for Boys Affected by Sexual Violence found that one of the most common reasons for not reporting sexual violence is fear of re-victimisation and reprisals, and in many cases boys, quite rightly, do not have confidence in the system. 

International standards exist, but they are not consistently implemented within countries. The cultural context can play a large part in this. For example, in countries where homosexuality is illegal, parents may deny that their child has been abused even if they know about it. In some countries in South Asia, we found that police have been using sodomy laws to criminalise children who do come forward as victims. In Pakistan, some provisions of legislation to tackle child prostitution only apply to girls under sixteen, leaving boys and older girls unprotected. In Guatemala, we learnt of a 16-year-old boy who was placed in a care centre after his aunt reported that he had been raped by a 35-year-old woman; and in Colombia, a boy who had been sexually exploited was placed in an adolescent detention centre for having caused damage to the female perpetrator. In other countries, we found examples of boys being placed in adult male jails after disclosing abuse in their home, because the authorities did not know what else to do with them; and this puts them at risk of further victimisation.  We found further examples of police action resulting in sexual violence from countries as diverse as Italy, South Africa, Nepal, Cambodia and the Philippines.

Even where laws do exist to protect children, the system can make it difficult for them to find justice, such as this example from Guatemala. The prospect of testifying in an adult court can be difficult for any child, especially one who is experiencing trauma.

 

What are we calling for?

It is essential that legal systems ensure that laws are in place that protect boys from being affected by sexual violence, ensure they are not criminalised for being victims, and give them routes to justice and recovery. This includes ensuring that mechanisms for disclosure and prosecution are set up to be child-friendly. Where these laws and processes have been put in place, it is essential for the relevant organisations to ensure they are consistently implemented.

 

Making it happen

Through the United For Boys Charter, we’re calling for organisations to commit to ensuring their services work for every child who needs them.

Through our package of support and guidance, we support signatory organisations to make it happen around the world.

 

*Source: Our report, Caring for Boys Affected by Sexual Violence.

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