The use of children as sexual objects is a detestable phenomenon and a major cause of reproductive health problems among this cohort. Not enough is known about children’s participation in issues affecting them including sexual abuse and prevention strategies.
This study was designed to document sexual abuse experiences among female adolescent hawkers, factors increasing their victimization and suggested prevention and safety strategies in Nigeria.
This cross-sectional survey explored female adolescent hawkers’ experience, factors increasing their victimization, prevention and safety strategies to sexual abuse. About 410 hawkers purposively sampled were interviewed using a 49-item questionnaire while interviews were conducted for consenting hawkers to provide more depth.
About 52.9% of respondents have attained junior secondary education with mean age 14.4±1.8 years. Majority (68.3%) reported a recent (3 months) experience of sexual abuse which included unwanted touch (49.8%), verbal abuse (31.0%), unwanted kissing (16.1%), exposure to pornographic materials (13.7%), attempted rape (12.9%), genital rubbing (8.5%) and rape (6.6%). Predictors of being a victim of sexual abuse include having boyfriends. In-depth interview revealed child maltreatment, deception, being overly lonely and engaging in a physical fight with a potential perpetrator as factors increasing hawkers’ victimization to sexual abuse. Four-level preventive strategies to sexual abuse were highlighted including Personal – avoidance of idle discussion with males and screaming for help (53.4% vs 24.4%); Communal – hawking in groups (43.2%); Policy – strict implementation of legal punitive measures against perpetrators and ban on sale and view of pornographic movies (55.4% vs 16.8%); Familial – Carers should always see to the welfare of their children especially the girl-child (33.9%).
Sexual abuse among children especially females is a major problem. Interventions including age-appropriate sexual abuse prevention education, increased legislation and implementation of child safety and protection policies and aggressive address of underlying socio-economic determinants are recommended to deal with this problem.