Bangkok, 14 June 2005 – A ban on corporal punishment led the issues to be targeted during the East Asia and Pacific Regional Consultation Against Violence this week in Bangkok. Corporal punishment at home and in school physically and emotionally impacts daily on the lives of many of the region’s 600 million children. Experts during the opening session called for better public awareness and debate on child rights, legislation to prohibit all forms of violence and mandatory reporting systems to monitor abuse.
The concluding issues and recommendations from the Regional Consultation will contribute to the United Nations Secretary General’s Study on Violence Against Children. The global study, the first of its kind, seeks to explore the impact of violence by concentrating on the different settings where it may occur and to identify practical policy recommendations to eliminate the violence.
The World Health Organization estimates that worldwide 40 million children under the age of 15 suffer from violence, abuse and neglect.
According to Speaking Out, a survey among children in East Asia and the Pacific, 23 per cent of the young respondents say their parents beat them when they do something wrong. Power relations between children and adults, deeply embedded hierarchal traditions and gender inequality exacerbate both the physical and psychological forms of violence against children.
Although the use of corporal punishment in schools is prohibited by law in China, Thailand, the Philippines and Viet Nam and in some other countries by other mechanisms such as policies, guidelines and formal decrees, it is still widely practised and culturally accepted as a form of appropriate discipline in most countries in the region, including those which have outlawed it.
Professor Paulo Pinheiro, the Independent Expert for the UN Study stressed that the challenge was not simply “to break the silence by merely compiling shocking stories” but there is a need for “continuous efforts to understand the root causes, the factors that allow it to occur frequently and most importantly, effective ways to prevent and respond to this violence, where it occurs”.
Professor Pinheiro acknowledged that some countries had put in place better child protection laws. But there are many obstacles to eliminating violence against children, both in enforcing laws and adequately acknowledging the scope of the problem. Cultural, economic and social norms and attitudes continue to perpetuate violence against children. Border conflicts, violence against refuges and other stateless and displaced people, as well as the problems of ethnic minorities who are denied many of their rights to development and participation are some of the challenges that need particular attention, said Professor Pinheiro.
In their keynote speech, five “under 18” delegates, representing the 26 young people from 14 countries in the region attending the consultation, spoke of the importance of child participation in forums and in policy-making on violence. In particular, they highlighted that corporal punishment of children in the home is permitted in all 14 of the countries they represented. As well, they presented their key recommendations for improving the protection of young people:
Corporal punishment must be banned in homes, schools and as punishment in the justice system.
Government should fund organizations where children can participate and discuss the violence in institutions.
The UN, governments, NGOs and communities need to share information and work together to prevent sexual violence happening to children in the family. The UN, governments, NGOs and communities should and must help children who have been victims of sexual violence. Implement strategies into our government and traditional societies. Implement strict laws for those who commit sexual abuse.
Draft regulation on child working conditions and minimum age requirements and stronger provisions for punishment of perpetrators then conduct trainings for adults about the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Provide education on children’s rights at school. Every school should have monitoring and implement legislation and regulations concerning the torture of students. Orient teachers on children’s rights.
“Although this topic is serious and wide-ranging, we feel passionate about making a difference and we are not afraid to carry the responsibility of representing our peers!” commented Wah Man Yin from Hong Kong, one of the young delegates.
“Violence does not discriminate between rich and poor nations and pervades all societies within which children grow up,” Anupama Rao Singh, UNICEF’s Regional Director, said in her opening remarks. “Sadly, violence has become part of the economic, cultural and societal norms that make up many children’s environment.” She asked for more openness and debate on this often-hidden or denied problem and urged delegates to ensure that outcomes and strategies developed in their respective countries reach the highest levels of leadership.
Apirak Kosayodhin, Governor of Bangkok, officially opened the Regional Consultation and welcomed the more than 250 delegates from government, non-government organizations, academia and child groups who gathered for the three-day meeting.
The East Asia and Pacific Regional Consultation is the sixth of nine required consultations for the global UN Study. It is the first consultation to include a working group on violence against children in cyberspace. Several international experts on cyber violence are taking part in the Regional Consultation after attending an ECPAT International special meeting on cyber violence. The 20 cyber-violence experts from Asia, the Pacific, Europe and North and South America reviewed the latest knowledge on forms of violence against children in cyberspace, its impacts on children and effective measures to combat and prevent it. ECPAT International is coordinating research and advice on cyber violence against children for the UN Study on Violence Against Children.
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