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The consequences of violence against children

The consequences of violence against children
© UNICEF Mozambique
Ensuring that victims know their right and breaking the culture of silence surrounding sexual abuse are both necessary conditions to overcome the problem.

MAPUTO, Mozambique, 13 June 2011 – Violence against children is a profound violation of human rights and has devastating short- and long-term mental and physical health consequences. Child victims of violence include children who have been sexually abused or subjected to violence as punishment; forced to work in intolerable conditions or trafficked in exploitative conditions of work; or forced into early marriage. This violence cuts spans geographical boundaries and cuts across culture, race, class and religion. It can be expressed as physical or sexual assault or abuse, or deprivation or neglect.

The risk of violence is exacerbated by poverty, which often goes hand in hand with a lack of adequate protection by caregivers and limited access to essential services. Statistics from the Ministry of the Interior (MINT) reveal that 3,500 cases of child violence were reported to the police in 2009 and perhaps up to 5,000 in 2010. The number of children who suffer from violence, abuse and exploitation is likely to be much higher than the reported number of cases.

The UN Violence Study notes that violence against children is significant in its scale, scope and under-reporting, all of which are exacerbated by social acceptance of the phenomenon. Some forms of violence are rooted in discrimination, unequal gender dynamics and harmful practices, and Mozambique is no exception. Available studies and data provide a basis for arguing that the existing patriarchal culture and male-dominated social order is exceptionally strong in Mozambique. Victims’ low level of knowledge of their rights and a culture of silence and acceptance of violence are key barriers to addressing the problem.

Although recent quantitative data are limited, previous surveys reported a high incidence of sexual exploitation and abuse of children and women at home, in the workplace and at school. Sexual abuse of children and women remains a major concern in Mozambique. The 2001 National Survey of reproductive health and sexual behavior of young people indicated that 30 per cent of women and 37 per cent of men had directly witnessed violence between their parents as a child or youth, and that 15 per cent of women and 20 per cent of men had suffered physical abuse from a relative in their youth. A study conducted by the Ministry of Women and Social Action (MMAS) in 2004 indicated that as many as 54 per cent of women surveyed reported having been beaten, while 23 per cent of respondents reported having been subjected to some form of sexual abuse.

“Most violators are known to the victims and are often close family members or friends,” says Mayke Huijbregts, Chief of Child Protection at UNICEF Mozambique.

UNICEF’s position is that steps must be taken to change social norms and individual behavior; that existing laws against violence and abuse must be enforced; and that cases of abuse must be prosecuted and justice seen to be done, so as to prevent further abuse and break the culture of silence that surrounds the issue. 

For more information, please contact:

Arild Drivdal, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email:  

Gabriel Pereira, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email:  



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