LJUBLJANA/GENEVA, 5 July 2005 - The invisible faces of children across Europe and Central Asia (ECA) who are subjected to daily abuse and violence in the home, school, community and residential institutions will come into sharp focus at a conference starting today in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
‘Stop Violence Against Children – ACT NOW’ runs from 5-7 July and is hosted by the Government of Slovenia and organized in close collaboration with the Council of Europe, UNICEF, WHO, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the NGO Advisory Panel on the UN Study on Violence Against Children.
This consultation is one of nine worldwide that will feed into a major study by the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, on Violence Against Children* due out in 2006. The Study is headed by Prof Paulo Sergio Pinheiro who will address the assembly in Ljubljana.
Delegations from all over the region will confront some harsh home truths, literally and figuratively: the home is not always the safest place for a child. In the European Region alone, four children aged 0-14-years are killed every day - or over 1,300 every year - as a result of homicides or assaults.
In addition, gaps in knowledge and data on violence against children are a regional affront: the depth and extent of the problem is not known and the spotty research available can only provide an approximation.
In an effort to address gaps, the Slovenian Government commissioned a survey into violence in the home to inform preventive policy**. Preliminary results from the survey reveal that of adults questioned:
only 56 per cent would “certainly” inform the police if they knew that neighbours were frequently beating their child
only 49 per cent would “certainly” inform the police if their close relatives were psychologically abusing their child.
73 per cent stated they had personally experienced family violence as a child
33 per cent knew one or more families, where slapping was the normal way of disciplining children
56 per cent knew one or more families, where shouting at children was the norm
Regionwide, what few data there are, speak for themselves:
The risk of homicide is about three times greater for children under the age of one than for those aged 1-4. That age group, in turn, faces double the risk of those aged 5-14.
Studies carried out in 14 European countries put the rate of sexual abuse both within and outside the family at 9 per cent: 33 per cent for girls and 3 to 15 per cent for boys; in Slovenia there were 26 reported cases of sexual abuse by those in a position of power in 2004.
Girls are more often bullied than boys. Boys carry out 85 per cent of the attacks. There are very few studies on girls as bullies. Eighty per cent of violence is carried out by the 12-16 age group.
In Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova there is no explicit ban on corporal punishment in institutions.
Gang violence has risen steeply in Eastern Europe. In the Russian Federation, homicide rates for young people aged 10-24 rose by over 150 per cent after the collapse of communism. Shootings more than doubled in Azerbaijan, Latvia and the Russian Federation.
Delegates old and young – some 25 young people are attending – will work to come up with a list of things to do now and in the medium and longer term to lift the veil of secrecy enshrouding the issue and to set up effective avenues of redress for those trapped in the terror, isolation and silence of brutality.
All countries in ECA have a legal framework for action – the Convention on the Rights of the Child – but obligations are flouted day after day by state, social services, law enforcement officials, community, media, family.
Complicit and permissive attitudes to violence against children will be challenged and the media invited to play a pivotal role in shaping views on children commensurate with their dignity as human beings, citizens and vulnerable by virtue of age and size.
In schools, bullying and worse forms of violence take a toll in suicides or ruined lives; the community provides scant refuge for thousands of children living on the streets or merely ‘hanging out’; and most institutions of detention or imprisonment across ECA should be denounced. Nor are children necessarily safe and cherished in residential care.
Individual responsibility to speak out on violence against children will also be stressed in the coming days.
NOTE FOR EDITORS:
*The United Nations Secretary General has appointed an independent expert, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, to lead a global study on Violence against Children. The study, rooted in children’s right to protection from all forms of violence, aims to promote action to prevent and eliminate violence against children at international, regional, national and local levels. The study is a United Nations-led collaboration, mandated by the General Assembly, to draw together existing research and relevant information about the forms, causes and impact of violence affecting children and young people (up to the age of 18 years). A major report will be published in 2006 and recommendations presented to the United Nations General Assembly.
Nine regional consultations, including the Consultation in Slovenia in July, will pull together regional information on violence against children in four settings: the home, the community, the school and residential institutions. These will articulate the agenda for action and contribute recommendations to the study.
**'Analysis of domestic violence in Slovenia – proposals for preventive measures' was commissioned by the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affaris of the Republic of Slovenia and is being carried out by the Science and Research Centre of Koper, University of Primorska. A total of 1,006 adults were interviewed for the survey
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8 April 2005: UNICEF correspondent Dan Thomas reports on UNICEF’s child protection work in Moldova ahead of the Consultation on Violence against Children in Europe and Central Asia, held in Slovenia this July.