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Child protection from violence, exploitation and abuse

Author of UN violence study advocates child rights at criminal justice conference

© UNODC/2006/Borovansky-Koenig
Professor Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, author of the Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children, at the 16th Session of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Vienna.

By Blue Chevigny

NEW YORK, USA, 27 April, 2007 – Professor Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, the Independent Expert behind the UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children and a world-renowned advocate of child rights, attended the 16th Session of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice this week in Vienna, Austria.

In an interview with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Mr. Pinheiro outlined several ways in which violence against children and crime intersect. 

On the subject of Internet-based child abuse and child pornography, for example, he emphasized that legal protection for children has not grown to match the rapid growth of the web. “Most important is to deal with the children [exploited by web-based abuse] as victims and handle their recovery,” he said. “We need to be much more careful than we are.”

Mr. Pinheiro also cited a crucial link between child protection and justice in the handling of crimes such as trafficking and prostitution.

“In many countries, children involved in prostitution are criminalized and even punished because they are involved in something illicit. This is unacceptable,” he asserted. “We must make sure not to indict the victims. This would be the worst thing that could happen.”

Children victimized by adults

Indeed, many marginal activities associated with children and youth – such as street begging and loitering in gangs – are criminalized, and Mr. Pinheiro believes this is a mistake. In most cases, he said, there are adults behind these activities, and the children are being victimized by those adults.

“If you take, for instance, the gangs in Central America, most of the homicides and heinous crimes are not being committed by adolescents, but are being committed by adults,” he pointed out. “In Brazil, in my own country, I would say that 95 per cent or more of the homicides are committed by adults.

“Thus you don’t have to criminalize every organization of youth, which is precisely what happens,” added Mr. Pinheiro. “You just detain every child or adolescent with tattoos, even if you don’t have any indication that they committed crimes.”

‘The new scapegoats’

For Mr. Pinheiro, the bottom line is that the victimization of children globally is a much larger problem than crime among children, and this must be the starting point for any discussion of this issue.

“The number of children as victims is far greater than the number of children as perpetrators,” he said. “The problem is that you have the perception of children and adolescents as responsible for the high rates of homicides. This doesn’t correspond to reality, but adolescents are the new scapegoats of the 21st century.”

The 16th Session of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice took place all this week, with meetings concluding today.









26 April 2007:
Independent Expert Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro discusses children’s rights at the 16th Session of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.
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