Secretary-General’s Study on Violence Against Children: Tolerance of everyday violence against children must end
BANGKOK, 19 October 2006
Leading child-rights organizations urged governments from East Asia and the Pacific to take swift action to prevent and respond to pervasive everyday violence affecting millions of children. The call was made at a symposium held today to highlight the findings of the newly released UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence Against Children, which sheds new light on the scale and scope of abuse against children in the region and globally.
“Much violence against children is shrouded in shame and secrecy, yet as this landmark study reveals, it is pervasive”, said Anupama Rao Singh, UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Director. “Under the Convention on the Rights of Child every child has right to be protected from violence and abuse. Governments must act to fulfill their obligation to prevent and eliminate violence against children.”
The UN Secretary-General’s Study is the first to provide a comprehensive global view of the range and scale of everyday violence against children. It combines human rights, public health and child protection perspectives in five different settings where abuse occurs: the home and family, schools and educational settings, institutions (care and judicial) the workplace and the community.
Power relations between children and adults, deeply embedded hierarchal traditions and gender inequality contribute to the physical and psychological violence against children, the study notes.
“While we often think that violence against children is inflicted by violent people, in fact, it is often practiced in many areas of a child’s life by family, society and the state,” said Laurence Gray, Regional Advocacy Director for World Vision. “It is unacceptable to beat, to strike and to emotionally or psychologically crush any child in any setting.”
Children with disabilities, children belonging to minority groups or living on the streets, children in conflict with the law and those who are refugees or displaced from their homes are particularly vulnerable to violence.
According to Speaking Out!, a 2001 UNICEF survey of children in East Asia and the Pacific, almost one quarter of the young respondents reported that their parents beat them when they did something wrong. A 2005 Save the Children survey conducted in eight countries cited hair pulling, ear twisting, pinching, smacking, beating, burning and verbal assaults – plus a high level of kicking and punching – as common forms of punishment.
The use of corporal punishment in schools is prohibited by law in China, Thailand, Philippines and Viet Nam, however it is still widely practiced and culturally accepted as a form of discipline in most countries in the region, including those that have outlawed it.
"Corporal punishment is a regular part of the school experience. Think back to your own schooling. Were you or any of your friends ever physically or emotionally punished? Chances are you will say "Yes" because corporal punishment is a common practice throughout the world, "says Hameed Hakeem, Coordinator of UNESCO's Asia-Pacific Programme of Education for All.
“No form of corporal punishment against children is acceptable” said Herluf Madsen, Regional Representative for Save the Children Sweden. “Children often say they are punished for no reason, yet we know the effects can be devastating, long lasting and all too often lead to learning difficulties, emotional problems and even depression and delinquent behavior.”
A growing area of concern in the region is the threat of violence against children as a result of new technologies in cyberspace. According to ECPAT an estimated 1 billion people will be mobile phone subscribers by 2010 (up from the 230 million in 2000), whilst Asia leads the way with the most number of people now using the internet. Currently, 12 per cent of children in the region, under 15 years of age, have a mobile phone.
“We have been late in recognizing that the benefits of new technologies are increasingly offset by adverse effects on children,” said Carmen Madrinan, Executive Director of ECPAT. “The shocking reality is that such new technologies are increasingly employed by networks of child traffickers, sex tourists and paedophiles to facilitate organized sexual abuse and violence. Better understanding of the forces that affect children in cyberspace will result in better protection of their right to live free from exploitation".
The study’s findings, informed by consultations, questionnaires and interviews were enriched by the participation of children who made key contributions by helping to understand the various forms of violence and its effects upon them.
Representing young people from the region, Michael Sheehan-Bendall from New Zealand, Lorelie Limbang from the Philippines, and Hoang Thi Hue from Viet Nam told the symposium’s audience of ambassadors and agency heads that it is crucial to involve young people in addressing violence in their communities and urged governments to ensure that they are integral to strategies that resolve to end violence against children.
The UN Study, led by Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the Independent Expert appointed by the Secretary-General, calls for a wide range of actions to be taken to prevent and respond to violence against children across all settings where it occurs. Twelve overarching recommendations address areas such as national strategies and systems, data collection and ensuring accountability. Member states will have to report their progress to the General Assembly in 2009.
Anthony Burnett, ECPAT International, Tel: +66 2 215 3388; 611 0972 (Ext 112), email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Arunee Achakulwisut, Plan International, Tel: +66 2 576 1972-4 ext.115, email: email@example.com
James East, World Vision International, Tel: +66-2-3916155; +66-2-381-8861 (office) +66-898-121-402 [cell] email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Shantha Bloemen, UNICEF EAPRO, Tel: +66 2 356 9407 or +66 1 906 0813, email: email@example.com
Dominique Pierre Plateau, Save the Children Tel: + 66 02 684 1046, 02 6841047, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alida Pham, UNESCO, Tel; 66 2 391 0577, email: email@example.com