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African Human Rights Law Journal

On-line version ISSN 1996-2096
Print version ISSN 1609-073X


KANGAUDE, Godfrey Dalitso; BHANA, Deevia  and  SKELTON, Ann. Childhood sexuality in Africa: A child rights perspective. Afr. hum. rights law j. [online]. 2020, vol.20, n.2, pp.688-712. ISSN 1996-2096.

It is an undeniable fact that children in Africa face many challenges in their sexual health and development trajectories. One of the challenges that children face is ideological, that is, the social construction of childhood sexuality and the effects of that construction on law and policy and on what information and services children may access regarding sex and sexuality. Adults tend to represent children as sexually innocent and incompetent, and their actions toward children focus on preserving this sexual innocence and averting sexual risks. The article discusses how this ideological positioning of children shapes sexuality education, and the criminalisation of sexual conduct between consenting adolescents. Legal instruments and related interpretive instruments such as court judgments and the General Comments and Recommendations of treaty-monitoring bodies play an important role as they construct meanings of childhood sexuality that align with or contradict dominant representations of childhood as sexual innocence which has effects for children's sexual rights. The article analyses how General Comments of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the African Committee of Experts have represented childhood sexuality. It argues for the transformation of views about children toward perceiving children as having sexual agency to the extent of their evolving capacities, as a prerequisite to addressing challenges that children face in Africa relating to sexuality. It recommends that the African Committee of Experts should, in its interpretation of the African Children's Charter, construct childhood sexuality positively to represent children as sexual agents rather than positioning them as sexually innocent which also implies viewing any sexual activity of the child as inherently harmful or as a mark of deviance or corruption.

Keywords : African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child; childhood sexuality; sexuality education; criminalisation of adolescent sexuality; African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

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