Over half of the world’s children experienced severe violence last year1. It is estimated that 64 per cent of these children are in South Asia2. Violence can be physical, sexual, and emotional and also exemplify itself as neglect. It can happen in the home, in a care facility, on the street. It may occur as a result of a presumed protective mechanism. It can be interpersonal and also a result of structures that allow or promote violence. Not only for the victim but also for anyone who witnesses the violence, the best way to address violence is to prevent it.
In South Asia, over 50 per cent of women between the ages of 20-24 married as a child. Marrying as a child has a lifelong impact on a person’s social, educational, and health wellbeing, and risks the fulfillment of human rights3 and sustainable development.
Only 62 per cent of South Asian children under the age of 5 are registered and have a birth certificate. Being registered is a person’s first recognition before the law. Without it may limit a person’s access to protection – through the enforcement of age-related legislation or to ensure a child can be identified and remain with their families - to services, to participate in society.
Children can be separated from their families during a crisis. Children may also be inappropriately separated and placed in foster care or an institution, due to a perception of family need or sometimes for more illicit reasons. In an institution, the wellbeing of most children is most at risk with institutional care lacking the necessary stimulus for a child to thrive and if separated for more illicit reasons can be the subject of exploitation and abuse.
Children can be in contact with the justice system as a victim, witness or offender. Yet the justice system is often structured to deal with adults, not allowing the necessary space for the child to participate. A child, particularly as a victim requires additional safeguards to understand the proceedings, and if an alleged or convicted perpetrator, the balance between the punishment and the rehabilitation must lean towards rehabilitation. In South Asia, the focus is on punishment with countries in the region permitting physical and corporal punishment, as well as long-term detention, with few options for diversion or alternatives to detention.
Violence against children is widespread and pervasive and remains a harsh reality for millions of children in South Asia which has long-lasting consequences on their lives.
Twelve per cent of the children aged 5-14 in South Asia are involved in child labour4, well over 41 million children. Children are used in some severe forms of child labour such as bonded labour and as child soldiers. They are also used in the brick kilns, carpet weaving, garment making, domestic service, fisheries, and mining. The repercussions to their health and education are permanent. They may also be separated from their families and vulnerable to physical and emotional abuse.