The cries of children in East Asia and the Pacific who are victims of violence must be heard, and action must follow
Bangkok, 2 August 2013 UNICEF offices throughout East Asia and the Pacific will be gathering information and calling for action to stop violence against children as part of a new global End Violence Against Children initiative. Violence against children is all too often unseen, unheard and underreported. The initiative urges ordinary citizens, lawmakers and governments to speak out more forcefully to fight violence against children and end impunity for those who violate children’s rights.
“In every country, in every culture, there is violence against children,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “Whenever and wherever children are harmed, our outrage and anger must be seen and heard. We must make the invisible visible.”
Estimates of the frequency of severe physical abuse of children vary but a review of existing literature UNICEF commissioned in 2012 found that as many as one in four children in the region have suffered from violence which results in physical injury.
The damage to children caused by sexual and physical abuse is often very serious and lifelong. These children are more likely to be depressed and experience other types of mental health problems, to think about or attempt suicide and to engage in more high-risk behaviours than their non-abused counterparts.
The UNICEF global initiative to End Violence Against Children, launched this week in New York, urges people to recognize violence against children, to join global, national or local movements to end it, and to focus collective action on this goal.
“This is a 15-year-old girl being gang raped,” he says as the camera pans across an abandoned lot. “This teacher is beating a boy for talking back in class, while the rest of the class watches,” he says as new scenes unfold.
“Just because you can’t see violence against children doesn’t mean it isn’t there,” Neeson says. “Make the invisible visible. Help us make violence against children disappear. Join us. Speak out.”
Precise data on the prevalence of violence is not readily available, and its collection is one of the aims of the initiative. What statistics United Nations agencies have collected suggest that globally some 150 million girls and 73 million boys under 18 experienced sexual violence and exploitation (WHO).
Throughout the next twelve months, countries in East Asia and the Pacific will be mounting a series of initiatives to understand the levels of violence and help stamp it out, including:
- eight national Violence Against Children surveys will be carried out to establish the extent of violence and to inform actions to prevent it;
- the first ever comprehensive study on violence against children in Indonesia, undertaken by the Government of Indonesia, the Centers for Disease Control and UNICEF;
- 16 days of activism to address gender based violence in November in Fiji;
- a public advocacy initiative in Malaysia called Get On Board
- An International Roundtable on the National Anti-Family Violence Law in China, jointly organized by the UN agencies and the All China Women's Federation; and
- A series of social media and civic education campaigns to empower children, families and communities to prevent violence and respond effectively when it occurs.
Protecting children is at the heart of UNICEF’s mandate. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child specifies that every child everywhere has the right to be protected from all forms of violence.
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