• Rongedzayi Fambasayi North-West University
  • Rejoice Shamiso Katsidzira University of Pretoria
Keywords: cities, SDG 11, violence against children, SDG 16.2, pathfinding cities


The global development agenda acknowledges the role of cities in achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and addressing contemporary challenges caused by urbanization. SDG 11 aspires to make “cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” by 2030, even as the global urban population continues to grow exponentially, along with — even more rapidly — the population of children living in cities. Cities are the level of government closest to people’s daily lives, and are best placed to address the numerous challenges and rights violations that children are exposed to, including sexual exploitation and abuse, violence, trafficking, and child labour. SDG 16.2 has the primary aim of ending the “abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against children”. Through the lens of the subsidiarity principle, this article argues that localization to the city level of law and policy strategies that address violence against children can provide normative and powerful legal tools for their protection. Although there is developing scholarly literature on the global aspirations expressed in SDG 11 and SDG 16.2, little has been offered from a child rights perspective on the role of city governments in the prevention of, and protection of children from, violence.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biographies

Rongedzayi Fambasayi, North-West University

Doctoral researcher, South African Research Chair in Cities, Law and Environmental Sustainability, Faculty of Law

Rejoice Shamiso Katsidzira, University of Pretoria

Doctoral candidate, Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law


Aust, H. P., & du Plessis, A. (2018). Good urban governance as a global aspiration: On the potential and limits of SDG 11. In D. French & L. J. Kotzé (Eds.), Sustainable Development Goals: Law, theory and implementation. (pp. 201–221). Edward Elgar.

Birkenkötter, H. (2019). Ensuring access to public spaces as a dimension of “safe spaces”: The role of UN entities in shaping the global governance agenda. In H. P. Aust & A. du Plessis (Eds), The globalisation of urban governance: Legal perspectives on Sustainable Development Goal 11 (pp. 127–150). Routledge.

Carmona, M. (2015). Re-theorising contemporary public space: A new narrative and a new normative. Journal of Urbanism: International Research on Placemaking and Urban Sustainability, 8(4), 373–405.

Cappa, C., & Jijon, I. (2021). COVID-19 and violence against children: A review of early studies. Child Abuse & Neglect, 116, 105053.

City of Johannesburg. (2019). Joburg 2040 growth and development strategy (GDS): ‘A strategy for progressive change’. GDS%202040/Joburg 2040 GDS_March 2019.pdf

Cluver, L. D., Rudgard, W. E., Toska, E., Zhou, S., Campeau, L., Shenderovich, Y., Orkin, M., Desmond, C., Butchart, A., Taylor, H., Meinck, F., & Sherr, L. (2020). Violence prevention accelerators for children and adolescents in South Africa: A path analysis using two pooled cohorts. PloS medicine, 17(11), e1003383.

Devries, K. M., & Meinck, F. (2018). Sexual violence against children and adolescents in South Africa: Making the invisible visible. The Lancet Global Health, 6(4), e367-e368.

du Plessis, L. (2006) “Subsidiarity”: What’s in the name for constitutional interpretation and adjudication? Stellenbosch Law Review, 17(2), 207–231.

du Plessis, A. (2019). The global aspiration of ‘safe, sustainable, resilient and inclusive’ cities: South African local government shaping up. In T.C. Chigwata, J. de Visser, & L. Kaywood (Eds.), The journey to transform local government (pp. 9–32) Juta.

Fang, X., Zheng, X., Fry, D. A., Ganz, G., Casey, T., Hsiao, C., & Ward, C. L. (2017). The economic burden of violence against children in South Africa. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(11), 1431.

Fambasayi, R. (2021). Leveraging city-level climate change law and policy for the protection of children, International Journal of Children’s Rights, 29(4), 872–896.

Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children. (2022). Pathfinding countries. (accessed 1 April 2022).

Hsiao, C., Fry, D., Ward, C. L., Ganz, G., Casey, T., Zheng, X., & Fang, X. (2018). Violence against children in South Africa: The cost of inaction to society and the economy. BMJ Global Health, 3(1), e000573.

Human Rights Council. (2015). Role of local government in the promotion and protection of human rights: Final report of the Human Rights Advisory Committee [A/HRC/30/49].

Johannesburg City Safety Strategy: presentation for the Johannesburg CID Forum. (2016, October 11).

Kassanjee, R., Leoschut, L., Ward, C. L., Artz, L., & Burton, P. (2018). The prevalence of child sexual abuse in South Africa : The Optimus Study South Africa. South African Medical Journal, 108(10), 791–792.

Lansink, A., & Nampewo, Z. (2022). Sex trafficking as a form of gender-based violence against women: Lessons from South Africa and Uganda. In E. C. Lubaale & A. Budoo-Scholtz (Eds.), Violence against women and criminal justice in Africa: Volume I — Legislation, limitations, and culture (pp. 179–223). Palgrave Macmillan.

Lin, J. (2018). Governing climate change: Global cities and transnational lawmaking. Cambridge University Press.

Mathews, S., & Benvenuti, P. (2014). Violence against children in South Africa: Developing a prevention agenda. In S. Mathews, L. Jamieson, L. Lake, & C. Smith (Eds.), South African child gauge (pp. 26–34). Children’s Institute, University of Cape Town.

Molnar, B. E., Scoglio, A. A. J., & Beardslee, W. R. (2022). Community-level prevention of child maltreatment. In J. E. Korbin & R. D. Krugman (Eds.), Handbook of child maltreatment (pp. 459–477). Springer.

Myers, B., Bantjes, J., Lochner, C., Mortier, P., Kessler, R. C., & Stein, D. J. (2021). Maltreatment during childhood and risk for common mental disorders among first year university students in South Africa. Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology, 56(7), 1175–1187.

National Planning Commission. (2012). National development plan 2030: Our future - make it work. The Presidency, Republic of South Africa.

Petrowski, N., Cappa, C., Pereira, A., Mason, H., & Daban, R. A. (2021). Violence against children during COVID-19: Assessing and understanding change in use of helplines. Child Abuse & Neglect, 116(2), 104757.

Phyfer, J., Burton, P. & Leoschut, L. (2016). Global Kids Online South Africa: Barriers, opportunities and risks. A glimpse into South African children’s internet use and online activities [Technical report]. Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention, South Africa.

Pieterse, M. (2014). Development, the right to the city and the legal and constitutional responsibilities of local government in South Africa. South African Law Journal, 131, 149–177.

Pinheiro, P. S. (2006). World report on violence against children. United Nations Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children.

Rasool, S. (2022). Adolescent exposure to domestic violence in a South African city: Implications for prevention and intervention. Gender Issues, 39(1), 99–121.

South African Cities Network. (2016). State of South African cities. accessed 16 March 2022.

South African Local Government Association. (2019). Violence in local government: A study on damage to property, intimidation, threats, harm, and killing of councillors and municipal officials. 1 - Latest Knowledge Products/SALGA Study on Violence in Local Government.pdf

Schmidt, K., & Azzi-Lessing, L. (2021). Neglect of young children in South Africa: Implications for prevention, identification, and intervention. Child Welfare, 98(6), 29–51.

Smit, E. I. (2021). Prevalence, theoretical framework and South African legislative measures on child sexual abuse and incest. Technium Social Sciences Journal, 25(1), 417–428.

Stoffels, M. & du Plessis, A. (2019). Piloting a legal perspective on community protests and the pursuit of safe® cities in South Africa. South African Public Law,34(2), 1–26.

Thivant, L. (2018). UNICEF child friendly cities and communities handbook. UNICEF. Friendly Cities and Communities Handbook.pdf

UN-Habitat. (n.d.). Safer cities programme: A safer and just city for all. file:///C:/Users/Windows/Downloads/3217_alt.pdf

UN-Habitat. (2018). Working for a better urban future: Annual progress report 2018.

UN-Habitat. (2019). Safer cities. accessed 28 March 2022

United Nations Children’s Fund. (2004). Building child friendly cities: A framework for action. UNICEF Innocent Research Centre.

United Nations Children’s Fund. (2012). The state of the world’s children: Children in an urban world. (accessed 16 March 2022).

United Nations Children’s Fund. (2022, February 8). One third of children in South Africa at risk of online violence, exploitation and abuse [Press release].

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, November 20, 1989,

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. (2015). Transforming our world: The 2030 agenda for sustainable development.

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. (2018, May 16). 68% of the world population projected to live in urban areas by 2050, says UN [News].

UN Women. (2019a). Safe cities and safe public spaces: Global results report. 2019/Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces.pdf

UN Women. (2019b). Safe cities and safe public spaces for women and girls global flagship initiative: International compendium of practices.

Ward, C. L., Artz, L., Leoschut, L., Kassanjee, R., & Burton, P. (2018). Sexual violence against children in South Africa: A nationally representative cross-sectional study of prevalence and correlates. The Lancet Global Health, 6(4), e460–e468.

Weber, S., & Bowers-DuToit, N. (2018). Sexual violence against children and youth: Exploring the role of congregations in addressing the protection of young girls on the Cape Flats. HTS Theological Studies, 74(3), 1–8.

Whitzman, C., Worthington, M., & Mizrachi, D. (2021). The journey and the destination matter: Child-friendly cities and children’s right to the city. Built Environment, 36(4), 474–486.

World Health Organization. (2018). INSPIRE handbook: Action for implementing the seven strategies for ending violence against children. (1).pdf.

World Health Organization. (2020). Global status report on preventing violence against children.

Legal and Policy Instruments

Children’s Act 38 of 2005. (2005).

Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. (1996).

Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 32 of 2007. (2007).

Culture and Recreation By-laws. (2010). and%20%20recreation by-laws.pdf

Department of Social Development. (2018). South African integrated programme of action addressing violence against women, children, and LGBTIQ persons (2019–2024).

Department of Social Development. (2019). National plan of action for children 2019–2024. (accessed 14 March 2022).

Domestic Violence Act, 116 of 1998. (1998).

Integrated Urban Development Framework, 2016–19 Implementation Plan. (2016).

International Journal of Child, Youth and Family Studies (2022) 13(2-3): 52–71

Joburg City Safety Strategy. (2015).

Local Government: Municipal Structures Act 117 of 1998. (1998).

Local Government: Municipal Systems Act 32 of 2000. (2000).

National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence & Femicide: Human dignity and healing, safety, freedom & equality in our lifetime. (2020).

New Urban Agenda (A/RES/71/256). (2016).

Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act 7 of 2013. (2013).

Public Open Spaces By-laws. (2004).

Report of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) [A/CONF.165/14]. (1996).

White Paper on Safety and Security. (2016).

How to Cite
Fambasayi, R., & Katsidzira, R. S. (2022). THE ROLE OF CITIES IN ENDING VIOLENCE AGAINST CHILDREN IN SOUTH AFRICA. International Journal of Child, Youth and Family Studies, 13(2-3), 52-71.