Protection of children from violence, abuse and exploitation

Child Protection


Violence against Children in South Asia

© Source: UNICEF ROSA CP 2012, with SOWC 2012 data

Violence against Children in South Asia


Children in South Asia and in the world experience violence in a range of settings including at home and in the family, in schools and educational settings, in care and justice systems, in workplaces and in the communities.  According to General Comment No. 13 of the Committee on the Rights of the Child violence against children includes “all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse” as listed in article 19, paragraph 1, of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The term violence has been chosen here to represent all forms of harm to children as listed in that article, in conformity with the terminology used in the 2006 United Nations study on violence against children, although the other terms used to describe types of harm (injury, abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment and exploitation) carry equal weight.
Specific forms of violence manifestation include, but are not limited to, corporal punishment, child marriage, domestic violence, child trafficking, bullying and physical fights. Violence is perpetuated by adults as well as by children’s peers, including by persons trusted by them, such as friends, community and family members.

Violence against girls and boys is a violation of their rights. Article 19 of the CRC calls for legislative, administrative, social and educational actions to protect children from all forms of violence and abuse. Several other instruments, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the two first Optional Protocols to the CRC, and the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour (1999) single out particular types of violence for action.

Preventing, mitigating of and responding to violence against children in South Asia is a matter of urgency. The 2006 UN Study on Violence against Children estimated that in South Asia every year between 41 and 88 million children witness violence at home – the highest regional total in the world.  The exposure of children to violence in their homes on a frequent basis, usually through fights between parents or between a parent and her/his partner, can severely affect a child’s well-being, personal development and social interaction in childhood and adulthood.

Evidence also indicates that half of the world’s child brides live in South Asia, where 46 per cent of women aged 20-24 are first married or in union before they reach the age of 18  and that around 44 million children are engaged in child labour across the region.  Sexual abuse and exploitation, as well as child trafficking and corporal punishment raise additional concerns in the region.
Violence has devastating consequences for children's health, behaviours, well-being and overall development. Increasing evidence demonstrates that violence against children negatively affects societies and countries. The economic costs resulting from violence against children and the lack of consistent investment into national child protection systems can hinder the development of the region. Finally, violence intersects with the Millennium Development Goals – from eradicating extreme poverty to achieving universal primary education, from promoting gender equality and empowering women to reducing child mortality.

The protection of children from violence is getting higher on the South Asian political agenda. In 2005 the Regional Consultation on Violence against Children in South Asia, in Islamabad, and the creation of the South Asia Forum for Ending Violence against Children were the first steps toward the establishment, in 2010, of the South Asia Initiative to End Violence against Children (SAIEVAC). Since the end of 2011 SAIEVAC is an Apex Body of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

Within the framework of the UN Study on Violence against Children, and in order to advance in the implementation of its recommendations, South Asian governments identified in 2010 core child protection areas to be strengthened and critical child protection issues affecting children throughout the region to focus on through a strategic five-year regional work-plan of SAIEVAC (2010-2015). This information note focuses on four of the five forms of violence identified by governments as priorities in the SAIEVAC work-plan: child marriage, trafficking, corporal punishment and child labour. In addition, this note focuses on other forms of violence against children not included in the work-plan but for which evidence exists: partner violence against adolescent girls and peer violence. No data are provided on sexual abuse and exploitation, despite the importance of these phenomena in the region, since abuse is often not reported and shrouded in secrecy and regional data are still scarce.

Forms of Violence

Child marriage:
Child marriage is a violation of human rights. The right to free and full consent to marriage is recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) stating that consent cannot be ‘free and full’ when one of the parties involved is not sufficiently mature to make an informed decision about a life partner.
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979) states that the betrothal and marriage of a child shall have no legal effect and all necessary action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify a minimum age of marriage. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women recommends this age to be 18.

The harmful consequences of child marriage include separation from family and friends, decreased opportunities for education, lack of freedom to interact with peers and participate in community activities. Child marriage can also result in bonded labour, commercial sexual exploitation and violence against child brides. Because they can often not abstain from sex or insist on condom use, child brides are frequently exposed to such serious health risks as premature pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and diseases.

In South Asia, there are more child marriages than in any other region of the world: half (32, 6 million) of the 64 million young             Source: UNICEF ROSA CP 2012, with SWOC 2012 data
women 20-24 years old who have reported globally that they were married before age 18, live in South Asia.

Overall, in the region, 46 per cent of women 20-24 years old were first married or in union before they reached the age of 18 and 18 per cent of women 20-24 years old were first married or in union before they even reached the age of 15.

Significant differences in the child marriage rate exist among countries within South Asia, according to available data from national surveys: child marriage prevalence – measured as the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were first married or in union before they were 18 year old – varies from 4 per cent in Maldives to 66 per cent in Bangladesh. The country rates in ascending order are: Sri Lanka (12 per cent); Pakistan (24 per cent); Bhutan (26 per cent); Afghanistan (39 per cent); India (47 per cent); Nepal (51 per cent) and Bangladesh (66 per cent). 

Bangladesh, Nepal and India, the countries most at risk of child marriage in South Asia, are among the most at risk countries in the world: with Bangladesh and Nepal on the third and fourth positions, after the West African countries of Niger and Mali.  Although girls are more at risk of child marriage than boys, these countries have significant rates of men 20-24 years old who were first married or in union underage (before age 18), in ascending order: Bangladesh (5 per cent); India (10 per cent) and Nepal (16 per cent).

Significant differences in the prevalence of child marriage also exist within the same country. Evidence shows that in developing countries, girls from the poorest households are three times as likely to get married before age 18 as girls from the richest household. In South Asia the child marriage rate is 72 per cent within the poorest quintile and 21 within the richest one. Disparities also exist according to locations: while the overall regional prevalence of child marriage equals 46 per cent, it is 30 per cent in urban areas and 55 per cent in rural areas.  

Partner violence against adolescent girls: Intimate partner violence is the most common form of violence against women in developing countries, according to the United Nations Study on Violence against Children. It also occurs frequently in adolescents’ relationships: within marriage, adolescent girls are particularly vulnerable to intimate partner violence, including sexual violence. 
Intimate partner violence has a host of negative outcomes on adolescent girls’ health, psychology and wellbeing, as well as on them beyond their adolescent years. The UN Study showed that this type of violence within the family setting also increases the risk of violence against children in the family.

In Bangladesh, 47 per cent of ever-married adolescent girls (married between 15 and 19 years old) reported that they have experienced emotional, physical and/or sexual violence committed by their current or most recent husband or partner.  Many socio-economic and cultural factors contribute to the incidence of partner and domestic violence. Social norms and societal attitudes that convey acceptance or justification of domestic violence make girls and women more vulnerable to become victims. National surveys show that in South Asia 52 per cent of women and 49 per cent of men aged 15-49 years old consider a husband to be justified in hitting or beating his wife for at least one of the following reasons: if the wife burns the food, argues with the husband, goes out without telling him, neglects the children or refuses sexual relations.  The justification rate among men in South Asia is the highest in the world, while the rate among women is higher than in East Asia and the Pacific (36 per cent), but lower compared to the rates found in Eastern and Southern Africa (59 per cent) and West and Central Africa (57 per cent).

The percentage of women and men 15-49 years old who consider a husband to be justified in hitting or beating his wife for at least one of the specified reasons varies across countries in the region. The available country rates of male justification in ascending order are: Maldives (14 per cent), Nepal (22 per cent), Bangladesh (36 per cent) and India (51 per cent). The available country rates of female justification in ascending order are: Nepal (23 per cent), Maldives (31 per cent), Bangladesh (36 per cent), Sri Lanka (53 per cent) and India (54 per cent).

Data show higher rates for women than for men in almost every country. Societal attitudes and justification may make adolescents and women more vulnerable to becoming victims.  The situation is not promising among adolescents, since adolescent boys and girls are also likely to justify wife-beating: overall in the region, 51 per cent of female adolescents aged 15-19 and 56 per cent of adolescent males in the same age group consider a husband justified in hitting or beating his wife for the specified reasons.  

Violence in work settings and the worst forms of child labour: Little data is available on violence against children in work settings, especially on child workers in the informal sector. Working children are vulnerable to physical, sexual and psychological violence by employers, co-workers, customers, police, criminal gangs and, in the case of sexual exploitation, pimps. Across the region, violence — physical, sexual and psychological — affects many children who are working, both legally and illegally.

Some categories of work have been identified as the “worst forms of child labour” and therefore constitute violence against children. The worst forms of child labour according to ILO Convention no.182 include: (a) all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict; (b) the use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances; (c) the use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties;(d) work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.

Children are trafficked for the purpose of sexual and economic exploitation both within South Asian countries and between them. South Asian victims of trafficking are also found in Europe and in the Middle East.
The worst forms of child labour, as defined by the ILO Convention, damage children’s health, threaten their education and lead to further exploitation and abuse. Violence may be used to coerce children to work, or punish or control them within the workplace.

Across South Asia 12 per cent of children aged 5-14 are engaged in child labour. This amounts to a total of 44 million children, which is more than 25 per cent of all children engaged in child labour worldwide (150 million). Of these children, 29 million live in India.
The child labour regional rate of South Asia is higher than the rate in East Asia and the Pacific (10 per cent, excluding China), in Latin America and the Caribbean (11 per cent) or in the Middle East and North Africa (9 per cent), but lower than the rates in Eastern and Southern Africa and in West and Central Africa and of the average rate of developing countries (16 per cent, excluding China).There is almost no difference at the regional level, between child labour rates among boys (13 per cent) and girls (12 per cent).

Large disparities exist among and across countries. The country with the highest indicators for child labour – among countries for which data exist – is Nepal, where 34 per cent of children aged 5-14 work. The lowest indicators are found in Sri Lanka, where the prevalence is 8 per cent. In India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan child labour rates are respectively 12, 13, 13 and 19 per cent.

Within countries themselves, as is also the case for child marriage and other forms of violence, there are differences based on gender, wealth quintiles and location. Within India for instance there are vast differences between States, ranging from 32 per cent in Gujarat to 3 per cent in Goa and Kerala, indicating that the regional targeting of policies aimed at eliminating child labour is essential.

Corporal punishment is any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of discomfort, however light. Most involves hitting (‘smacking’, ‘slapping’, ‘spanking’) children, with the hand or with an implement – a whip, stick, belt, shoe, wooden spoon, etc. But it can also involve, for example, kicking, shaking or throwing children, scratching, pinching, biting, pulling hair or boxing ears, forcing children to stay in uncomfortable positions, burning, scalding or forced ingestion (for example, washing children’s mouths out with soap or forcing them to swallow hot spices). In the view of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, corporal punishment is invariably degrading. In addition, there are other non-physical forms of punishment that are also cruel and degrading and thus incompatible with the CRC. These include, for example, punishment which belittles, humiliates, denigrates, scapegoats, threatens, scares or ridicules the child.

Corporal punishment is invariably degrading. It affects children’s physical and psychological health and has negative impact on students’ retention and learning achievements. Studies show that corporal punishment is a direct and significant reason for children dropping out of school.

Corporal punishment is a common phenomenon in the daily life of South Asian children – at home, in care and justice settings, in schools, in places of work, in their communities. It remains socially accepted throughout the region, in its various forms and not as yet generally perceived as abusive. A recent report by SAIEVAC, in collaboration with the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children and Save the Children Sweden  estimated in 2011, based on UNICEF child population figures, that 95 per cent of the world’s total child population live in countries where they are not legally protected from all forms of corporal punishment by parents: 29.3 per cent of these live in South Asia; 54.7 per cent of the global child population live in countries where they are not legally protected from corporal punishment in schools: 44.7 per cent of these live in South Asia; 55.7 per cent of children worldwide live in countries where they are not protected by law from corporal punishment in penal institutions: 50 per cent of these are in South Asia; 93.4 per cent of children worldwide live in countries where corporal punishment in all forms of alternative care is not prohibited, 29.8 per cent of which are in South Asia; 39.7 per cent of children across the world live in countries where for committing an offence under criminal, traditional and/or religious law they can lawfully be ordered to receive corporal punishment: 68 per cent of these are in South Asia.

Despite the progress made in other regions of the world in collecting and analyzing evidence on child disciplinary practices, data on corporal punishment in South Asia are still lacking. However, in Nepal the 2010 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey in the Mid-and Far-Western Regions of the country collected data on children experiencing violent discipline. It shows that overall, a very high proportion of children age 2-14 years (83 per cent) experience violent discipline, including both psychological aggression and physical punishment. Comparing the findings for girls and boys (81 and 85 per cent), a somewhat higher percentage of boys are victims of this type of violence.

Bullying, fighting and physical assaults: Children are also subject to violence by their peers, in the forms of bullying and of physical fights or attacks. A child is being bullied or victimized when he or she is exposed, repeatedly over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other children. Bullying comprises the notions of “repetition, harm and unequal power”. It includes a range of actions including name calling, false accusations to make trouble to the victim with authority figures, damaging or stealing belongings, threats and intimidation including through mobile phones and the internet. Bullying is most commonly verbal, but physical and sexual violence also occur.  Bullying is frequently associated with discrimination against students on the basis of gender, disability, race, ethnicity, religion or sect and caste. It is also a form of punishment being meted out by teachers to the students.

Bullying can lead to lifelong problems for children, affecting their emotional development, undermining their cognitive development and producing long-term mental distress. It causes low self-esteem, aggressiveness and mistrust in others and can lead to severe consequences including suicide.

Data on bullying in South Asia are scarce. However, evidence from Pakistan and Sri Lanka exists to show that adolescents are subject to bullying. In a World Health Organization (WHO) survey in Pakistan, 45 per cent of adolescent boy students and 35 per cent of adolescent girl students aged 13-15 reported having been bullied on one or more days during the past 30 days. A similar result was reported in the WHO survey in Sri Lanka, where 47 per cent of adolescent boy students and 29 per cent of adolescent girl students reported having been bullied during the past 30 days.

Bullying can lead to fighting. Fighting generally involves two or more people, where it is not easy to make distinctions between perpetrators and victims. Physical assault can occur as a separate phenomenon, as in the case of an attack by one person on another driven by inflamed feelings of anger or jealousy. It may also be driven by general feelings of rage, frustration or humiliation unprovoked by anything the victim may have done, as in the case of violent sexual assault and random shootings.  In a survey conducted by WHO in Sri Lanka, 60 per cent of adolescent boy students and 34 per cent of adolescent girl students aged 13-15 years reported having been in a physical fight one or more times during the past 12 months.  In the same country, 54 per cent of adolescent boy students and 42 per cent of adolescent girl students aged 13-15 years reported having been physically attacked one or more times during the past 12 months.

Progress Achieved
Strengthening national child protection systems

Child protection systems comprise the set of laws, policies, regulations and services needed across all social sectors — especially social welfare, education, health, security and justice — to support prevention and response to protection related risks.

Many efforts are on-going in the region to strengthen national child protection systems. Bhutan, for instance, has recently made a discernible shift toward building a national child protection system: following the 2011 parliamentary approval of the Child Care and Protection Act (CCPA) with a costed operational plan, the government, supported by UNICEF, has mapped and assessed the child protection system which will support operationalization of the Act. Pakistan has also embarked on a national child protection system mapping and assessment exercise and in Bangladesh, a draft of the outcome of the same exercise was finalized in 2011. In India, the roll-out of the Integrated Child Protection Scheme is being implemented in all states (except Jammu and Kashmir).

Coordination: UNICEF is strongly engaged in efforts to enhance coordination. In many countries, ministries, such as in India, and high-level governmental mechanisms, such as in Sri Lanka, have been mandated to coordinate activities on children and promote synergies across sectors, strengthen data systems on children and advocate for higher visibility for marginalized children.  In India, UNICEF led the formation of the child protection coalition which brings together 20 national and international NGOs and contributed to a number of significant fora and discussions, including on policy (Child Protection in the 12th Five Year Plan), legislation (Juvenile Justice, Child Labour) and programme intervention guidelines (review of adoption guidelines). In Afghanistan, UNICEF supported the set-up of the Child Protection Action Network (CPAN), a coalition of government, NGOs, communities and religious leaders working to provide access to services for children in need of protection.

Moreover UNICEF is strongly engaged in efforts to strengthen linkages between the national child protection system and community-based child protection mechanisms: in India, Nepal and Pakistan close-working relationships have been established between government and community groups to better prevent and respond to violence against children. In Nepal, 975 Village-level Paralegal Committees (PLCs) are active in 59 districts; in Pakistan, 96 community-based Child Protection Centres (CPCs) were established in 2011 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) for Internally Displaced Persons and 1,600 community-based Child Protection Committees were formed in flood-affected areas.

Legal protection, laws and regulations: all eight countries in the region have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), its Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Seven countries have also ratified the Optional Protocol to the CRC on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. Efforts are on-going to harmonize national legislation on child protection with the CRC. In 2011, the Government of Pakistan ratified the Optional Protocol to the CRC on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. Bangladesh in the same year saw the approval of the National Policy on Children by the Council of Ministers. In Afghanistan, UNICEF is supporting the Human Rights Support Unit of the Ministry of Justice develop a rationale for a comprehensive Child Act while in Sri Lanka, the Ministry of Justice has amended several provisions of ‘The Children and Young Persons Ordinance’, in-line with international standards, in 2011.

With regard to corporal punishment there are currently a number of bills addressing it at national level in the region. Corporal punishment is prohibited in schools in two countries, prohibited in the penal system as sentence in three countries and prohibited in the penal system as a disciplinary practice in one country.    

Capacity development: UNICEF is supporting Governments initiative to build capacities of the social welfare and justice sectors in many countries. Most countries in South Asia have established specialist police units and courts for juveniles; Maldives and to some extent Afghanistan, have put in place culturally appropriate diversion and restorative justice programmes. They are also working to build a cadre of professionally skilled staff through social work education and accreditation. In Sri Lanka more than 200 social protection officers of the Social Care Units under the Ministry of Social Welfare and Child Development were trained during the same year, with UNICEF support, to implement Case Management Guidelines including social care planning, family assessment and reunification, case conferencing and family group conferencing. In Karnataka, India, a Gender Sensitive Police Training Programme has showed particular success. In 2011, in Nepal, Child Rights and Child Welfare Officers from 30 districts were trained on child rights, child protection issues and on the basics of case management and social work. In addition to this, with UNICEF’s support the capacities of Village-level Paralegal Committees, women’s federations and child clubs are being developed, in order to raise awareness of early intervention, reconciliation and mediation, and advocate against violence, exploitation and abuse in collaboration with young people and the media.
In Bangladesh, UNICEF supported the Ministry of Social Welfare, for an 18-month long cash transfer support programme to 2,058 Orphans and Vulnerable children.

Supporting social change
Better child protection needs social consensus. The UN Study on Violence against Children noted that violence against children is significant in its scale, scope and underreporting, all of which are exacerbated by societal acceptance. Some forms of violence are rooted in discriminatory and unequal societal gender dynamics, and harmful practices can be deeply anchored within societies, making the involvement of all stakeholders in society crucial to bringing about change. 

Efforts are on-going in South Asian countries, to support social change for child protection In India for instance a formative research was conducted in 2011 to design interventions for changing social norms, together with the International Center for Research on Women. In the same country, in 2011 at least 200,000 individuals – parents, local leaders, frontline workers and community members – were mobilized with UNICEF support. Dialogue, awareness raising and empowerment of at least 30,000 girls and youths took place through networks and clubs in 10 States. In Bangladesh and India, children are actively involved in awareness-raising on child marriage; in Maldives in 2011 the Department of Gender and Family Protection Services drafted a Behaviour Change Communication (BCC) strategy for child abuse prevention.

A change in behaviours towards child marriage is taking place in India. At the district and village levels some interventions, led by NGOs and community based organizations, are facilitating a delay in marriage for girls. 
In this country compared to the early 90s, child marriage prevalence has declined to some extent in virtually all States: in the early 90s, nine of the 18 States for which data were available in National Family Health Survey-1  had 50 per cent or higher prevalence of child marriage; five States had prevalence over 60 per cent. By 2005-2006, only six of the now 21 States had levels of child marriage over 50 per cent; only Bihar and Jharkhand had prevalence higher than 60 per cent. In particular, some of the high and moderate prevalence States experienced significant declines. Madhya Pradesh (20.3 per cent), Haryana (17.5 per cent) and Maharashtra (15.1 per cent) made particularly large advances in delaying age at marriage, experiencing high declines of more than 15 per cent. Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh all showed declines of 10 per cent or more over the period.  Positive developments have also been taking place although gradually in Bangladesh and Nepal, where the median age at first marriage is rising, however remaining below 18.

Protecting children from violence in countries affected by conflicts and natural disasters
Conflicts and disasters affecting countries in South Asia create new protection risks for children and worsen existing ones. The breakdown of protection systems and mechanisms leaves girls vulnerable to sexual violence (but also boys are at risk of sexual violence in the region) and unwanted pregnancy and threatens all children with separation from their families, orphaning, increased risk of sexually transmitted infections, disability and serious, long-term psychosocial consequences. Armed conflicts leave children and populations vulnerable to appalling forms of violence, including rape, abduction, amputation, mutilation, forced displacement, sexual exploitation and killing. The wide availability of light, inexpensive small arms contributes to the recruitment and use of children as soldiers , as well as to high levels of violence once conflicts have ended.
UNICEF is working in these challenging contexts to prevent and respond to violence against children building on a child protection systems approach and UNICEF’s Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action. In Pakistan for example, where since July 2008 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), have experienced significant population displacement as a result of insecurity, child protection committees were established to identify vulnerable children, refer them to services, and ensure active community support for child protection activities in host communities and camps. Protective Learning and Community Emergency Services (PLaCES) have also been set up with UNICEF support and are operational in camps and host communities, including in areas affected by the floods. These have allowed reaching children (and women) with protective services, including psychosocial and recreational ones. UNICEF is also involved in monitoring, reporting and responding to child rights violations and in supporting national counterparts to prevent and respond to violence against children in these challenging situations: the Government of Afghanistan for instance has signed an Action Plan on the recruitment and use of under-18s into the Afghan National Security Forces in January 2011; the Ministries of Interior and Defence have issued Directives against the recruitment of under-18s into their forces, and are taking steps towards implementation of these Directives.

Evidence-based child protection and systematic data collection on violence
UNICEF works to strengthen analytical capacities on child protection, improve monitoring of child protection issues, and strengthen research and diagnosis of violence and child protection challenges. A regional study on equity and data gaps in child protection is being finalized by UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia, to strengthen evidence-based child protection and support equitable child protection work in the region. Work is also on-going in the Maldives on a national Child Protection Database with the purpose of incorporating different agencies' work on child protection issues including areas of child abuse, juvenile justice and gender-based violence. In 2011 UNICEF also assessed the existing child protection information systems in Nepal.
Efforts in monitoring and evaluation and for evidence-based planning, are being strengthened, although still slowly, in child protection: recent evaluations and assessments highlighted several good practices for child protection system strengthening in the region. The Gender Sensitive Police Training Programme in Karnataka, India, is emerging as a model for other States in the same country. The assessment of the 18-month long cash transfer support programme to 2,058 Orphans and Vulnerable Children in Bangladesh documented that 48 per cent of households moved out of extreme poverty. Building on its success, a Social Protection Initiative for Vulnerable Children in Urban Areas was designed to target working children, using cash transfers as a mechanism to improve socioeconomic resilience, reduce vulnerabilities and empower families, lowering the risk of child exploitation, violence and abuse. In Pakistan, the Protective Learning and Community Emergency Services model introduced in response to lessons learned from the 2010 floods proved successful in reaching a larger and less accessible target population, in a more cost-effective manner. As of end 2011, more than 177,000 children and 55,000 women were accessing the services.

Partnerships have been developed and strengthened in the last years between governments, children, civil society, and international organizations to strengthen joint work on violence against children. One of the biggest achievements with regard to partnership and regional cooperation on child protection in South Asia was the establishment as a result of the 2005 Regional Consultation on Violence against Children in South Asia, Islamabad, of the South Asia Forum for Ending Violence against Children (SAF), which in June 2010 evolved in the South Asia Initiative to End Violence against Children (SAIEVAC). SAIEVAC has a five year workplan (2010-2015) aimed at developing and strengthening national child protection systems in the region, to effectively protect girls and boys from all forms of violence in all settings. The workplan is a common regional strategic framework to coordinate and monitor progress annually. SAIEVAC also has a Governing Board which includes representatives from all governments in the region, children, the South Asia Coordinating Group on Action against Violence against Children (SACG) and civil society. SAIEVAC has national coordinators (government officials) in each South Asian country and a Regional Secretariat in Kathmandu. With the continued support of the SACG, chaired by UNICEF ROSA in 2011-2012 (co-chaired by Plan International), SAIEVAC has created an important forum for dialogue, collaboration and information exchange on child protection between governments, children, civil society, UN agencies and international NGOs. The initiative has also gained the support of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC): at the 17th SAARC Summit in November 2011, SAIEVAC was awarded Apex Body status within SAARC. Its proposal to the SAARC Development Fund was also recently approved, leveraging 2.6 million USD for the strengthening of both regional and country-level activities on child protection from violence in South Asia.

Efforts towards the strengthening of South-South cooperation have also been successfully made: a High-Level Meeting on Cooperation for Child Rights in the Asia-Pacific Region was held in Beijing, on 4-6 November 2010, with UNICEF support. The meeting resulted in a final declaration and a series of recommendations for the strengthening of South-South Cooperation for Child Rights, Child Protection and Child Welfare, and for achieving the MDGs with Equity.


The above initiatives show a consolidated effort of different stakeholders, including governments and children, to work together to find solutions to end violence against children and to coordinate and monitor progress annually. They have placed the protection of children higher on the South Asian political agenda and have demonstrated that positive change and progress are possible.

There is however an urgency to do more and do better.

The scale of violence affecting girls and boys in all South Asian countries and in all settings demands an immediate, comprehensive and coordinated action, within the framework of strengthening national child protection systems and supporting social change.

This should include strengthening the evidence base with better collection, analysis and use of disaggregated data and enhanced monitoring and evaluation of child protection programmes. Bottlenecks and barriers in achieving results should be identified, assessed, analyzed and addressed to guide necessary programmatic adjustments. Successful approaches should be documented, shared and scaled up in order to reduce inequities and better protect children.


© Source: UNICEF ROSA CP 2012, with SOWC 2012 data



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