UNITE FOR CHILDREN-- UNICEF

Press Centre 2010/04/29: General Information

Preventing Violence Against Children And Protecting Children: The Need For A National Strategy.

The recent news reports about children victims of violence and sexual abuse, as much heartbreaking as they are, should be regarded as signal rockets by the government and authorities as they flag major problems in the society, families and education and protection systems.

These blood chilling incidents are not unique to Turkey. Violence and abuse remain a harsh reality for millions of children around the world and continue to damage children’s lives and futures, even leading to their death in some cases.

A recent UNICEF publication on child protection, World Report on Violence Against Children (2006), reported that 85% of children between 2 and 14 years of age experience physical violence or psychological aggression. Research shows that between 500 millon to 1,5 billion children worldwide suffer from violence.

Violence and abuse has serious consequences for children. It disables children from enjoying their rights. It puts the emotional and physical health of children at great risk, provokes low self-esteem, causes trauma and depression which might lead to risk-taking and agressive behaviour which might result in self-inflicted harm.

Violence and abuse may take place in places where we believe children are most protected: in schools, care institutions and within the home, causing children to retrieve behind a curtain of silence and pain. Children find themselves abondened, betrayed by their family and the society, threatened by the perpetrators, and worried as they fear they may not be believed.

It is critical for the whole society to have zero tolerance for violence and abuse against children. As UNICEF we are inviting every single member of the society not to leave these children alone, break the cycle of feudal silence and mentality, and prevent secondary traumatization by  social exclusion.

Many countries and the respective governments do not know how big the problem of sexual exploitation is in their countries.  In Turkey these issues started being discussed by different segments of the society. Social change can be achieved through open discussion, questioning social norms and behaviors and engagement of children. The process requires strong support from communities and civil society, as well as government over the long term.

While discussing and reporting on these issues the privacy of children and their right to protection needs to be respected. They should not be exposed to further stigmatization by other children and society.

Decision makers and governments should invest in prevention. The underliying causes and risk factors of violence should be identified. Also needed are the development of systematic education and training programmes, and the promotion of codes of conduct and clear standards of practice especially in schools.

Law enactment and enforcement are critical for the protection of children and need to focus on prevention of violence, protecting children’s dignity and physical and psychological integrity. It should also be the State’s role to protect victims and provide assistance for the recovery and reintegration of child victims.

UNICEF is pleased with the recent proposed amendment in the constituion in regards to child rights as the amendment clearly defines the role of the state “to protect children from all kinds of abuse”.  But as important it is to have strong policies, they do not necessarily guarentee to stop violence by themselves. There is a need for development of a comperhensive programme that involved families, children themselves, civil society organizations, media and government institutions.  The children, families and communities need to be more aware of and sensitive towards these issues as they are the first line of defence against abuse and violence.

As UNICEF, we believe that as unfortunate as they are, recent incidents and the media reporting have been instrumetal in raising the awareness and the sensitivity of the public and decision makers. It is important to act immediately and come up with a comprehensive national strategy against violence. We owe this to these children.

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