- Define a “child” in all Penal Codes and all other legislation as a minor under the age of 18.
- Prohibit sexual exploitation of minors. For example, South Africa prohibits the engagement in “sexual grooming” or doing anything to prepare or induce a child to engage in a sexual act. See: Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters Amendment Act (2007) of South Africa §§ 18.
- Require school employees, medical professionals, social service professionals, and other relevant actors to report sexual violence and other forms of child abuse to the police, to inform survivors of their rights, and to refer them to legal and social services
- Mandate hotlines dedicated to reports of child sexual abuse and allow anonymous mechanisms for reporting cases of sexual violence and harassment
- Mandate the development of gender and age-sensitive protocols and guidelines on working with minor victims of sexual violence and mechanisms to monitor and enforce the protocols.
For a report on the importance of protocols in school settings, see Women and Law in Southern Africa-Zambia, Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School, and Cornell Law School International Human Rights Clinic, “They are Destroying Our Futures:” Sexual Violence Against Girls in Zambia’s Schools (2012).
- Provide measures to protect victims from retaliation such as protective orders.
- Mandate research on prevalence and incidence of sexual violence in schools.
- Provide for mandatory dismissal of teachers, school authorities, and other relevant professionals who have sexually abused students.
- Mandate regular and ongoing training for forensic examiners and medical practitioners on specialized techniques for sensitive examinations and evidence-gathering in cases with minor victims.
- Mandate regular and ongoing training for prosecutor, judiciary, and court staff on best practices for working with children and teenage girl survivors.
- Mandate regular and ongoing training on laws against sexual assault, harmful effects upon victims, and best practices for working with children and teenage girl survivors for prosecutors, police, judiciary, court staff, school teachers and other relevant professionals
- Mandate funding for specialized equipment to aid prosecutions, including two-way mirrors, posters, drawings, and anatomically-correct dolls.
- Mandate that a minor may not be coerced or intimidated into having a forensic medical examination by family or other individuals.
Busi Goes to Court (The Directorates: Publications, Community Services and Children’s Issues, Department of Justice,South Africa). A colouring book which informs child victims about special measures to make testifying in court less stressful, such as testimony via closed-circuit TV. Available in English.
Kids Go to Court (District Attorney’s Office, Alaska, USA). A colouring book for child victims. English.
Guidelines on Justice in Matters involving Child Victims and Witnesses of Crime (United Nations Economic and Social Council, Resolution 2005/20, 2005). English.
”A Full and Candid Account:” Using Special Accommodations and Testimonial Aids to Facilitate the Testimony of Children (Cunningham and Hurley, 2007, Canada). Available in English and French. Handbooks for prosecutors, judges, and others to help child witnesses provide accurate and complete evidence in court. Topics include: Overview of Issues, English and French; Testimony Outside the Courtroom, English and French; Witness Screens, English and French; Video-Recorded Evidence, English and French; Designated Support Person, English and French; Hearsay Evidence and Children, English and French; and Children and Teenagers Testifying in Domestic Violence Cases, English and French.
Testifying in Court: Choices for Youth in British Columbia (Justice Education Society, British Columbia, Canada). English. Includes a video on what to expect in the court process and other resources and links.
In Rwanda, Women’s Equity in Access to Care and Treatment (WEACTx) has developed a handbook for children and their advocates with information about their rights and about services which are available for victims of gender-based violence and other human rights violations. Available in English and Kinyarwanda.
UNICEF/Asociación por los Derechos Civiles, Guia de buenos practices para el abordaje judicial de niños, niñas, adolescents victimas o testigos de violencia, abuso sexual y otros delitos (2010). This guide is for judicial personnel and other professionals working with child and adolescent victims and witnesses of violence in justice processes. It includes guiding principles and international standards for working with child and adolescent victims and witnesses; guidance for interviews with children and adolescents, including the rationale, objectives and components of interviews, training and monitoring and infrastructure needed; and specific steps for each phase of the investigation process. Available in Spanish.
Support services for minor victims of sexual assault
- Provide legal assistance for girls in criminal and civil cases against perpetrators.
- Mandate provision of free-of-charge medical care, including abortion and prophylactic care for sexually-transmitted diseases or HIV/AIDS.
- Mandate provision of counselling, reimbursement of travel expenses associated with court appearances, and employment assistance. See: Amnesty International, Listen to their Voice and Act: Stop the Rape and Sexual Abuse of Girls in Nicaragua (2010). Available in English, Spanish, and French.
- Fund civil society organizations which support girls who are victims of sexual assault.
- Legislators should prioritize resources for specialized interventions for teenage and young girls. Compassionate support, promptly offered and extended long-term as needed, is critical to avoiding harmful effects such as suicide, depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, and dropping out of school. Legislation should:
- Mandate specially trained advocates to assist children and teenage girls who have survived sexual violence. Advocates can consolidate appointments and testimonies and act as a consistent support person for the survivor. They can encourage girls who have left school to return to school and provide them with support when they do so.
- Mandate state-wide programs that educate students about sex and sexual assault and that challenge harmful gender stereotypes
Family Services of Greater Vancouver, When Teenage Girls Have Been Sexually Abused: A guide for teenage girls (2008). Available in English.