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Violence against children

Street children in Savannakhet, Lao PDR
© UNICEF/LAO01205/Holmes
Street begging exposes children to violence and abuse in Lao PDR

The Issues

Violence against children is widespread in our region. It occurs in all settings, such as in workplaces and on the streets, and even in environments usually perceived as safe for children, such as schools, institutions and homes.

There are a variety of inter-related factors that render children vulnerable to experiencing violence. Some of these are:

• Subordinate status. Traditionally, children tend to have a subordinate status in the family and in society in our region. When this social norm is combined with gender inequality, income disparity, family breakdown and substance abuse, children can become victim to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation more readily.

• Unequal power relationships. When corporal punishment is used by teachers in schools, students are often afraid to report it because of the relatively higher social standing of teachers and other personnel and also out of fear of future repercussions of because of the reporting.

• Discrimination. Negative social attitudes towards ethnic minority children, street children and migrant children are contributing factors behind gang violence, police brutality, exploitative labour and other violations of their rights to protection.

• Poor enforcement of child protection laws. Enforcement may be hampered by many factors, including: lack of clear regulations or guidelines; absence of child-friendly procedures; inadequate protection of child witnesses; lack of recognition of children’s rights and clear definitions on what constitutes violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation; and inadequate harmonization of legal frameworks for child protection.

• Low awareness. Public awareness about violence against children varies across our region, but overall the issue is poorly understood and generally overlooked.

Adolescent prisoners are incarcerated with adult in Indonesia
© UNICEF/IDS00004/Dillon
Adolescent prisoners are incarcerated with adult in Indonesia

UNICEF in Action

UNICEF seeks to address violence against children by taking these actions:
• working with governments and civil society partners to strengthen national child protection systems;
• teaching children life skills on how to prevent and report potentially violent situations;
• promoting behaviour and attitude changes within families, communities and schools;
• advocating for legal reforms that prohibit violence against children, including corporal punishment, in all settings;
• training teachers and health and social workers on how to identify and respond to child protection concerns; 
• supporting local child protection networks as well as reporting, monitoring and referral systems, including services such as hotlines and temporary shelters.

    Working in Partnership to Address Violence Against Children in East Asia and the Pacific

    As a member of the East Asia and Pacific Steering Committee on Violence Against Children, UNICEF has been working with leading child rights agencies to support the implementation of the recommendations made in the 2006 UN Secretary-General's Study on Violence Against Children. Members include ECPAT International, Plan International, Save the Children Sweden, UNESCO, UNICEF, World Vision, UNESCO and OHCHR.

    UNICEF and IPU Join Forces to Stop Violence against Children

    East Asia and Pacific launch of the UN Secretary-General's study on violence against children

    [View clip]



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