Some of the biggest victims of domestic violence are the smallest
KUALA LUMPUR, 14 August 2006 – Every year, thousands of children in Malaysia and around the world are exposed to violence at the hands of trusted individuals according to a global report developed jointly by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), The Body Shop International and the Secretariat for the United Nations Secretary-General's Study on Violence against Children.
UNICEF Representative to Malaysia, Gaye Phillips and The Body Shop Malaysia Managing Director, Datin Mina Cheah-Foong presented the Report titled “Behind Closed Doors” to Malaysia’s Minister of Women, Family and Community Development, Dato’ Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil to mark the launch of the “Stop Violence in the Home” Campaign 2006” in Malaysia.
Most pervasive human rights challenge
According to UNICEF’s Representative to Malaysia, Gaye Phillips, violence in the home is one of the most pervasive human rights challenges and is not limited by geography, ethnicity or status.
"Traditionally, children have a subordinate status in the social hierarchy. Children are expected to be deferential to adults, be it in the family, in schools or in the general community"
“Traditionally, children have a subordinate status in the social hierarchy. Children are expected to be deferential to adults, be it in the family, in schools or in the general community. Children are not expected to question or challenge adults, and if they do, such actions can be perceived by adults as disrespectful. And in most societies, adults see it as their role and duty to physically punish children, for the child’s good, to ensure they grow into respectful adults” said Phillips.
The global Report which examines some of the underlying causes of domestic violence, cites that 275 million children around the world, of which 971,000 are from Malaysia, are exposed to the following types of abuses in their homes:
The Report however acknowledges that its findings are limited by underreporting of domestic violence, both by the abused parent and by children who live in the home. Communities or families often do not confront the issue to bring it to the attention of authorities as violence in the home is perceived to be a domestic issue.
Low levels of awareness
According to Phillips, the level of awareness of what constitutes an act of violence in its various forms is still very low in Malaysia and many other parts of the world. She added however that the numbers of women who face domestic violence can be used to gauge the numbers of children who may themselves be abused.
“The studies on domestic violence against women are very useful indicators as to the numbers of children living in violent domestic settings and child development experts tell us that a child’s mental health is affected, not only by direct physical violence and abuse, but also by witnessing abuse and violence against loved ones in the home”, she said.
Based on available data and a host of studies on the issue of violence against children, the Report presented three key findings:
Giving children a safe and secure childhood
In addition to the key findings, the Report also urges Governments to ensure that they do all they can to ensure that children enjoy a childhood that is safe and secure, and free of violence. Governments are urged to protect children by:
Phillips commended the Malaysian Government for its proactive efforts in ensuing that children are protected from harm. “Child protection is a priority for the Government of Malaysia. Through the Malaysia Child Act 2001, abuse, neglect, abandonment or exposing a child to physical and/or emotional injuries are all punishable crimes”, she said.
She acknowledged however that the challenge for UNICEF in partnership with the Government, civil society, private sector and media is to promote awareness of the Child Act especially in the context of the broader framework of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and to advocate for its effective enforcement and application.
The “Behind Closed Doors” report is the first global study to estimate the numbers of children who are exposed to domestic violence. It is based on global data from the United Nations Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children which will be presented to the United Nations General Assembly later in 2006.
NOTE TO EDITORS
The United Nations Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children
Say No to Violence Against Children