Millions of children worldwide are subjected to violence, abuse and exploitation.
It takes place at home, in schools, institutions or detention facilities, within the community, at work and during armed conflicts. Millions more, not yet victims, are not adequately protected against violence. Our agenda for action aims to realize a child’s right to access to justice and a child’s right to a supportive and caring family environment.
In this region, as elsewhere in the world, children are often affected by violence. Many countries report high levels of abuse and corporal punishment, which is often considered as an acceptable means of discipline. Much happens behind closed doors, cases go unreported and affected children rarely obtain redress. Certain children are particularly vulnerable and their rights to protection are more likely to be violated. These include ethnic minorities (such as Roma), children with disabilities, those who live or work on the street, and those in residential care and detention.
Many children are routinely deprived of their liberty because of juvenile justice systems that fail to comply with international standards. Social services are not sufficiently developed and very little is done to prevent children from getting into conflict with the law or to reintegrate those who do back into their communities. Many children under the age of criminal responsibility, or those who have committed petty offenses, are placed in ‘protective custody’ by administrative bodies that operate outside the justice system with limited legal safeguards.
Specialized services for child victims and witnesses are only in the initial stages and are yet to take effect. Child institutionalization is another major challenge in the region. While vulnerable children in these countries are more likely to grow up in a family than they were a decade ago, there are still many who are reliant on formal care. In the region, around 1.3 million children live in some form of family substitute care. Some 625,000 children - the highest number in the world - grow up in residential care. Large-scale institutions are unable to provide the one-to-one support and caring environment needed for children to develop properly, and measures to keep children with their own biological families are proving insufficient. Furthermore, there is little demand for change. In fact, many people in the region believe that certain children such as the disabled are better off institutionalized rather than with their families.
In addition, children are often victims of exploitation and hundreds of thousands of children are exploited in seasonal agricultural labour, especially in Central Asia.
In a protective environment, everyone should take responsibility to ensure children are protected from violence, abuse and exploitation. Some of the key elements of a protective environment include national child protection systems (including laws, policies, regulations and services), protective social practices and children’s own empowerment. Good oversight and monitoring are also essential. In a protective environment, families, communities and governments have the capacity to prevent and respond to violence, exploitation and abuse whether on a regular basis or in an emergency.
UNICEF advocates for and supports the creation of a protective environment for children, working in partnership with governments, national and international non-governmental organizations and private sector agencies.
Last updated November 2013
4th Child Protection Forum for Central Asia in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, 1-3 August 2013
Day 1 sessions
Day 2 sessions
Day 3 sessions
Violence against Children