The Limits of Child Justice in Ethiopia: An Exploration of Age- and Gender-Specific Experiences of Violence

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 11:06
Oral Presentation
Nicola JONES, ODI, United Kingdom
Bekele TEFERA, GAGE Ethiopia, Ethiopia
Workneh YADETE, GAGE Ethiopia, Ethiopia
Kiya GEZAHEGNE, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia
Children’s and adolescents’ rights agendas have risen rapidly up the political agenda in recent years, but in practice the transition from childhood to adulthood remains fraught for many adolescent girls and boys in low- and middle-income countries. Adolescents continue to experience a range of discriminatory social norms and practices, and arguably particularly with regard to violations of their rights to bodily integrity and freedom from violence.

This paper draws on qualitative research in three distinct but marginalised geographies in Ethiopia (South Gondar, East Haraghe and Afar) with approximately 200 early (10-12 years), and older (15-17) adolescents, their peers, caregivers and service providers in 2016 and in 2017. The data collection is part of the new DFID-funded multi-country Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence longitudinal research programme aimed at enhancing understanding around what works to enhance gender-responsive adolescent development and wellbeing.

The paper’s conceptual framing centres around the threats and opportunities to adolescents’ realisation of intersecting and overlapping individual and collective capability sets (Sen 1999, Nussbaum 2003). Our findings highlight that adolescent girls in particular but also boys in Ethiopia continue to face high levels of risk of sexual-, gender- and age-based violence at multiple levels. Experiences of violence cut across multiple settings including in families by siblings and/or parents, in and en route to school by strangers, classmates and/or teachers, in community spaces including as a result of recent political unrest, and beyond as part of migration and trafficking routes domestically and internationally. Exposure to these gender and generational risks are in turn compounded by deficits in other capability domains, including opportunities for participation and to exercise voice and agency. The paper concludes by discussing how effective implementation of national child justice legislation and policies remains limited and under-resourced, and insufficiently tailored to intra-country context differences to bring about meaningful change.