Violence against women takes a toll on children
This International Women’s Day, UNICEF looks at how children are affected when they witness violence against their mothers, sisters, aunts or caregivers.
KUALA LUMPUR, 5 March 2009 – Behind the closed door of a family home, a woman is being beaten while her children hide in the bedroom, unable to help or stop listening.
According to the UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence Against Children 2006, up to 275 million children worldwide are estimated to witness domestic violence every year, proving that some of the biggest victims of domestic violence are the smallest and most vulnerable.
“Every child has the right to be protected from all forms of violence, including violence perpetrated against their loved ones. Children need to grow up in an environment that is safe and secure, where they learn that domestic violence is wrong.”
Even when they are not directly being abused, children suffer greatly when they are exposed to violence in their homes, particularly when perpetrated between or against their parents.
International Women's Day, celebrated this year under the theme, ‘Women and Men: United to End Violence against Women’, is an opportunity to throw open these closed doors and understand the impact of domestic violence on children.
Worldwide, at least one out of every three women is likely to be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. In Malaysia, 485 cases of violence against women were reported to the Department of Social Welfare in 2006.
“Women are the primary caregivers for children and thus ultimately shape children’s lives. The well-being of women and children is inseparable,” said UNICEF Representative to Malaysia and Special Representative to Brunei Mr Youssouf Oomar.
A woman who is being abused in her home does not only suffer physically and emotionally, but is also forced to endure subordinate positions and economic insecurity in her household. With less autonomy and control within the family, she is unable to make important decisions for her children’s health, nutrition, education and well-being.
The World Report from the Secretary-General’s Study shows that children who witness violence between their parents, or between their mother and partner, can be psychologically and emotionally damaged.
Their well-being, personal development and social interactions in childhood and in adulthood can be severely affected, leading to behavioural disturbances such as substance abuse, juvenile pregnancy and criminal behaviour later in life.
Domestic abuse also perpetuates a cycle of violence for the next generation. Children who grow up with violence in the home learn to use violence in interpersonal relationships to dominate others. For instance, boys who saw their mothers being abused are more likely to grow up and abuse their wives.
This cycle must be stopped so that children can have the routine and normalcy that they deserve in their childhood, and be given the right to develop to their fullest potential.
“Every child has the right to be protected from all forms of violence, including violence perpetrated against their loved ones. Children need to grow up in an environment that is safe and secure, where they learn that domestic violence is wrong,” said Mr Youssouf.
As 2009 marks the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, governments are reminded of the promise they made towards all children 20 years ago, and their obligations to protect children from violence, even if it means intervening in “private” spheres.
Mr Youssouf stressed the need to engage men and boys in the fight against domestic violence, by mobilising them to recognise the needs of children exposed to domestic violence, as well as encouraging them to change attitudes and traditions that condone abuse.
Beyond the lifelong consequences for children, violence against women has enormous social and economic costs, and poses a serious threat to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
“If the world is to protect the rights of children, then we must do more to prevent violence against women and promote gender equality,” stressed Mr Youssouf.
NOTE TO EDITORS:
ABOUT International Women’s Day
ABOUT UNICEF and gender equality
In celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 2009, UNICEF stands by its commitment to ensure that all children – girls and boys alike – have equal opportunity to develop their talents, by ensuring equal access to early childhood care, nutrition, social services and education. For more information, please visit http://www.unicef.org/gender/
Indra Kumari Nadchatram
Shiao Eek, Tee
International Women's Day 2009
Ending Violence Against Women
5 March 2009:
27 February 2008:
25 February 2008:
6 March 2007:
10 December 2006:
8 March 2006:
Say No to Violence Against Children