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Paulo Sergio Pinheiro: "Children are tired of words"

© UNICEF/Argentina/2008

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro: "Children are tired of words"

Buenos Aires, August 21, 2008 - "Children and adolescents are tired of words, tired of the rhetoric, they want actions and effective protection," said the Rapporteur on Children of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, author of one of the Global Study of Violence - the most recent and comprehensive UN studies on violence against children which was published in 2006, after three years of work during which he consulted more than 50 UN member states.

Pinheiro opened the first session of the Latin American and Caribbean Preparatory Meeting for the Third World Congress against Sexual Exploitation of Children which will be held in November in Brazil. The other two presentations were given by the General Director of Inter-American Institute for Children and Adolescents of the Organization of American States (IACHR), Maria de los Dolores Aguilar Marmolejo, and Vice President of the Committee on the Rights of the Child of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, Rosa Maria Ortiz.

"Children and adolescents are tired of not being protected, “said Pinheiro ”The democracies of this continent were unable to assure their protection. The Third Congress against Sexual Exploitation of Children has to put an end to this scandal."

The study led by Pinheiro concludes that acts of violence against children occur everywhere, in all countries and societies, affecting all social groups. Children suffer abuse on a daily basis, and while there are unexpected and isolated acts of violence, most of the abuses and suffering is caused by people who the children know, and in whom they should be able to trust, such as their parents, boyfriends or girlfriends, spouses and partners, classmates, teachers and employers.

Violence against children includes physical violence, psychological violence such as insults and humiliation, discrimination, neglect and maltreatment. Although the consequences may vary depending on the nature and severity of the violence, the impact in the short and long term for children and for society as a whole, are often severe and damaging.

Therefore, Pinheiro warned that the III Congress must not only consider the commercial sexual exploitation "because sometimes the children’s’ home is the most dangerous place", and he highlighted that "violence prevails when there is a culture of impunity, when marginal groups have no access to justice. "

"This situation demonstrates the states’ lack of compliance to international treaties which they signed voluntarily,” he said. “Nobody forced the States to ratify the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (ICRC) or the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and the Use of Child Pornography, but if they did sign, they have to comply. There are no excuses."

In Latin America, it is estimated that more than 2 million children and adolescents are exploited sexually each year.  Boys face a greater risk of physical violence than girls, while girls are more likely to suffer sexual violence, neglect and forced prostitution.

Pinheiro listed several international treaties and confirmed that although legislation is an important element, "the effective implementation of the norms is more important."

"Despite this abundance of international laws, a gap remains between the commitment and the reality which hinders the eradication of sexual exploitation of children and adolescents,” he said. “If we want to assume a serious commitment on the issue, we cannot only regret what happened, but we have to prevent violence from happening."

Among other recommendations to the Latin American and Caribbean delegations to take the Third World Congress, the IACHR rapporteur suggested that states need to invest in the design of public policies based on a human rights approach. Policies with clear targets, he said, to ensure the participation of all stakeholders including children and adolescents. "There is not much to invent: we must implement the commitments made," he concluded.

For further information
Tamar Hahn, thahn@unicef.org, (+507) 301 7485, UNICEF Latin America and Caribbean


UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.


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