STOP violence against children
Every child has the right to protection from all forms of violence
Violence against children is a phenomenon that exists in every country, community, ethnic or religious group, irrespective of the social status of the child or the family. It happens everywhere: at home, at the kindergarten, out in the street, among friends, in child care facilities, at law enforcement institutions, etc. Children become victims to different forms of violence and abuse: physical, psychological, sexual, bullying, online, neglect, trafficking, sexual and labor exploitation, or arranged child marriages.
Violence impacts the physical and mental development of children, reducing their learning skills, their ability for verbal interaction or for joining peer groups.
Violence may hinder their development and prevent them from becoming fully functional adults and good parents. In its extreme forms, violence can even cause death.
According to data from the Agency for Social Assistance, in 2016 the child protection departments have received 3,158 alerts of violence and opened 681 cases. Over 4,200 incidents involving aggression against children have been recorded in the schools during the 2014/2015 academic year.
Since the adoption of the Child Protection Act in 2000, Bulgaria has been developing a child protection system that deals with prevention, identification of, and response to, violence against children. Corporal punishment is prohibited under the Child Protection Act, the Family Code (2009) and the Pre-school and School Education Act (2015). In February 2017, the Council of Ministers approved a National Program for the Prevention of Violence and Abuse of Children, however violence against children continues to be a serious problem.
A large portion of the incidents, however, remain hidden from view as public’s attitudes still tolerate moderate forms of corporal punishment of children – almost
68% of parents accept the use of ‘violence within reasonable bounds’ as a disciplining method .
There is lack of trust in the testimony of children, lack of specialized services for children victims of violence, the judicial procedures of investigation and court hearing are still not adapted for children.
Violence can be prevented and reduced. Strategies that have proven their effectiveness are: enforcing the law; changing social norms and values; creating a safe environment; supporting the parents and caregivers; economic advancement and supporting a higher income; availability of services to provide response and support; education and the promotion of social skills.
Насилието може да бъде предотвратено и намалено. Ефективните стратегии са: изпълнение на разпоредбите на закона; промяната на социалните норми и ценности; създаване на безопасна среда; подкрепа за родителите и полагащите грижи за децата; икономическо развитие и подкрепа за доходите; наличие на услуги за реакция и подкрепа; образование и развитие на социални умения.
The right of every child to a life without violence is the underlying element of the entire partnership of UNICEF with Bulgaria for the period 2018—2022. UNICEF partners with the government, the local authorities, the civil sector, the media and society as a whole to strengthen the national capacity for prevention, identification, response to violence, and protection of children victims of violence. UNICEF supports the implementation of the National Program for the Prevention of Violence and Abuse of Children. The main strategy will involve direct engagement with children to raise their awareness of their rights and the mechanisms of alerting the authorities in cases of violence.
UNICEF works in the following main areas for the prevention of violence and protecting the victims:
1. Knowledge on the situation of violence against children in Bulgaria:
- Conducting a national study of violence against children in Bulgaria, designed to capture its prevalence, the attitudes of society, and the capacity of the national systems.
- Support for the governmental institutions in improving the system of collection of data about victims of any form of violence (including online bullying) and the perpetrators.
2. Programs for support of parents and promoting positive parenting models.
3. Prevention of violence in the educational schools through interventions at child/pupil, group/class, kindergarten/school, and community level.
4. Training and supports for professionals: teachers, pedagogues, care takers, physicians, police officers, social workers, prosecutors, judges, and lawyers.
5. Specialized services for children victims of violence and their parents: Child Advocacy Centers three regions of the country: Montana, Sofia and Shumen, which provided social, legal and psychological support to children and parents victims of violence.
6. Changes in the legislation that would bring Bulgarian law in line with international standards while providing better guarantees for protection and access to justice.
7. Campaigns and activities designed to raise public awareness of the prevalence of violence against children in Bulgaria, its forms and consequences. Promotion of public attitudes of zero tolerance towards violence against children.
8. New accessible channels and mechanisms for children to alert the authorities of cases of violence against them.