Child protection experts demand better understanding of African culture

African child protection professionals were urged to join forces
to inform and influence policy last week after two Angolan women
were found guilty of abusing a child they claimed was a witch.

The eight-year-old girl, who cannot be named, was brought to
Britain from Angola in 2002 by her aunt. The Old Bailey heard that
the aunt and another relative, Sita Kisanga, subjected the child to
ritualistic abuse after becoming convinced she was a witch.

DS Chris Bourlet, deputy head of Scotland Yard’s child
abuse investigation command, admitted that finding the child was
largely the result of  “luck and chance”.

Children’s charity the NSPCC said it was vital that child
protection agencies gained an understanding of African culture and
worked closely with the community to end any practices that might
pose a risk to children.
“There is also an urgent need to raise awareness amongst this
community about child abuse and to increase their ability to keep
children safe,” explained NSPCC chief executive Mary Marsh.
“The support of the community is important to any further
moves to better protect African children.”

Social services leaders warned that abuse within a minority of
African communities in the UK could become a “growing
problem” as more was discovered about some of their
deeply-rooted belief systems.

The court heard that notes on bibles found in Kisanga’s
bedroom included references to witchcraft, sorcery, the devil, and
‘ndoki’, a type of possession thought to allow its
victim to fly and transmute into other creatures.

Association of Directors of Social Services spokesperson Hannah
Miller insisted there could be “no no-go areas” for
social care services, the police and other agencies when it came to
discharging child protection responsibilities. “Abuse of
children under any circumstances is totally unacceptable within any
community,” she said.

The London Child Protection Committee is consulting on a
protocol for faith groups to help them better engage with child
protection and is setting up a group to co-ordinate the issue
across London.

Kisanga and the girl’s aunt will be sentenced next month
alongside Kisanga’s brother, Sebastian Pinto, who was
convicted of aiding and abetting child cruelty.

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