Children of Benin

Children of Benin

Realizing Children’s Rights in Benin

Although one of the strongest democratic models in Western Africa, Benin still has a long way to go regarding the protection of children’s rights. In particular, this country needs to make progress in the areas such as right to life, health, education and identity. . .



redRealization of Children’s Rights Index:
5,05 / 10
Red level : Difficult situation

Population: 9,87 millions
Pop. ages 0-14: 44,1 %

Life expectancy: 59,3 years
Under-5 mortality rate: 64 ‰

Main problems faced by children in Benin:


Benin is one of the poorest countries in the world, with more than 30% of its population living below the poverty line. Rural areas are much more affected than urban areas.

More than three in five Beninese say that their living conditions are poor. What is more, the life of the Beninese is even harsher because of natural disasters that plague their country. In 2010, this state faced the most severe flooding it has ever seen, leading to additional problems for the welfare of its inhabitants.

Right to Health

The infant mortality rate is particularly high in Benin and statistics show that 15% of newborns are underweight.

Though in the past Benin has made progress in this area, Beninese children remain severely affected by certain diseases sometimes fatal, and related conditions, such as malaria, AIDS, respiratory illnesses or even diarrhea.

Additionally, healthcare infrastructure and personnel are clearly inadequate in this State.

Genital Mutilation

The practice of female genital mutilation still exists in certain regions of Benin. The precariousness and lack of hygiene in which these circumcisions are performed often result in serious consequences regarding the health of young girls. Infections, hemorrhaging or other problems frequently result from this procedure.

Right to Life

In some regions of Benin, certain beliefs promote practices that result in cruel and inhuman treatment towards children. Although the country has attempted to halt these practices, they persist in certain areas. According to certain customs, if a child is born with deformities, or if a mother dies in childbirth, or even if a baby is born in the breach position, the child is considered evil. These children are then considered to be abnormal and given to an executioner; consequently, a sad fate awaits them.

Infanticide is not practiced by all inhabitants of Benin and only concerns certain beliefs that are rather rare. However, it is clear that even though the right to life is guaranteed in Benin, these practices are extremely serious and constitute one of its greatest violations.

Right to Education

In theory, education is mandatory and free from 6 to 11 years old, but in reality, school is rarely free and because of this, it is difficult to make attendance mandatory.

An important difference exists between boys and girls. It is rather rare to find young educated Beninese girls; those in this category can be considered very lucky compared to the majority of the female population.

Child Labour

Unfortunately, more than 45% of children are forced to work in Benin.

Children in rural areas may be given to some distant family members living in the city and are promised a good education, and in particular, access to schools. Unfortunately, in some cases, these children are exploited and forced to work in horrendous conditions. Some of them become the sad victims of all sorts of abuse, and a large number of boys are sent to cotton plantations.

Child Trafficking

In 2007, a UNICEF investigation revealed that more than 40,000 children aged 6 to 7 (86% of them girls) have been victims of trafficking. These children are then employed as domestic servants or in areas of agriculture. Even more horrendous, they are sometimes forced to join prostitution networks and the sex trade.

Child Marriage

In Benin, more than a third of young girls are forced to marry before the age of 18.

Moreover, they are trained from an early age in their future role as wives. These marriages often have profound effects on the health of young girls, as they do not yet understand what marriage entails.

Right to Identity

In Benin, 40% of births are not officially declared. These children have neither an official identity, nor a nationality.

This creates great difficulties for these people. They will not be able to exercise their rights as they are considered invisible in the eyes of society.