Children's situation in Lao PDR
Child protection in Lao PDR faces different challenges. There is limited data and few community-based child protection services to assist children at risk or in situations of harm. Violence, abuse and exploitation of children are difficult to measure, as they are often hidden within the family and community, and exacerbated by gender inequity and marginalization of the poor, both in urban and rural environments.
Lao Social Indicator Survey (LSIS II) reveals that:
- 69% of children aged 1-14 experienced some form of violent discipline during the last month.
- 25.4% of Lao mothers/caretakers of children aged 1-14 believe that physical punishment is necessary.
- 73% of children under 5 years of age are registered with civil authorities.
- 32.7% of women aged 20-49 are married before they reach the age of 18.
There is a need to further harmonize national policies and laws with international legal obligations and translate them into practice through dissemination, enforcement and implementation.
It is also important to mention that the institutional and human resources for child care are limited, as are family support and community-based child protection services.
Finally, awareness about violence and its impact on children is low at all levels, and social norms that perpetuate the use of violence are widely accepted.
UNICEF wants to ensure that every child in Lao PDR is protected from violence, neglect and exploitation. To this end, the Child Protection programme is strengthening policy, legislative and institutional frameworks, and improving access to and delivery of family support and community-based child protection services.
The current programme has made a strategic shift towards policy implementation, while also keeping attention on service delivery to ensure a balanced child protection system development. The focus is on protecting all children in contact with the law, whether as victims, witnesses or alleged offenders.
At the central level, UNICEF supports the development of social workforce and the institutionalization of training on child rights for judges, prosecutors and the police to strengthen their awareness and skills for child protection.
We are also working with the Lao Women’s Union to provide preventive and responsive services to violence against children through parenting education to better respond to the needs of victims of violence and human trafficking.
UNICEF has piloted a legal and social assistance programme for children in contact with the law covering 15 villages in Saythany district, Vientiane Capital, and has trained local authorities and village para-legal workers.
In addition, a community-based diversion programme for children in conflict with the law in Saythany and Saysetha districts in Vientiane Capital and in Kaysone Phomvihan and Sayphouthong districts in Savannakhet province has been rolled out.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, with the support of UNICEF, has developed a para-professional social work training manual and trained provincial and district social welfare staff in Savannakhet and Xiengkhouang provinces.
UNICEF continues to strengthen the Child Protection and Assistance Committees at the central, provincial and district levels and the Child Protection Networks at the village level.