UNICEF calls for an end to all forms of violence and abuse by and against children
Belgrade, 30 November 2022 - Serbia has witnessed an increase in the reported number cases of peer violence and pupils’ violence against teachers. This indicates a readiness of victims, witnesses, and families to report this form of violence, as well as their expectation to get adequate support from institutions in charge, which is a good step in addressing this problem.
UNICEF condemns all violence and calls for an end to all forms of violence and abuse. A young population of children and adolescents are a great resource for the country, now and in the future. Their needs, aspirations, wellbeing, and protection must be a priority under all circumstances.
Vulnerability to violence develops in complex socio-economic and cultural contexts engaging siblings, peers, parents, caregivers, the wider community, professionals, and authorities. Since 2005, the Republic of Serbia has worked to establish an intersectoral network for the protection of children against abuse, neglect, exploitation, and violence. This includes the development of a legal framework, policies, and laws that regulate the prevention and protection of children from all forms of abuse and violence at home, in schools, institutions and the community. Much has been done in setting up the mechanisms, especially in schools.
However, as recent events have shown, there are challenges in implementation and accountabilities which should be urgently addressed. This can be achieved by setting up more effective prevention and response mechanisms between and within systems so that prevention leads to visible results and incidents are adequately and timely addressed, thereby reducing the rate of violence at all levels.
Peer violence should be understood as a phenomenon within the wider context of the community and family - as children come to school bringing their own experiences, values, and conflict resolution skills. As with any other forms of violence, peer violence is a result of behavioural patterns that are learned or supported in other environments, primarily in the family but also in the community at large. Children are often witnesses or victims of domestic violence. In fact, out of the total number of victims of domestic violence in 2021, as many as 8,146 were children. Moreover, 45% of children are still violently disciplined at home. UNICEF promotes non-violent disciplining through raising awareness about its harmful effects and the availability of non-violent disciplining alternatives, capacity building of professionals across sectors and advocacy for the legal ban on corporal punishment.
Clearly, parents play a key role in the life and development of their child’s early life and, accordingly, of society as a whole. However, many parents struggle with the conflicting priorities of parenting, making a livelihood for their family, and other challenges faced in everyday life. Therefore, caring for those who care is at the heart of UNICEF’s support to the Republic of Serbia’s Parenting Programme.
If children receive the nurturing care and support, they deserve and require in the early years, this will also have a positive impact on their mental health and wellbeing in adolescence and early adulthood. Violence can have a significant immediate and long-term inter-generational effects on the mental health of its victims. Prevention in mental health includes supporting individuals, families, and communities through a range of actions. Individual support includes improved management of emotions, skill-building through collaborative activities with others, including psychical activities, arts, and a sense of connection with school life.
The Republic of Serbia has adopted a Strategy for the Prevention and Protection of Children from Violence for the Period 2020-2023 and the response to violence against children should be based on it. UNICEF commends the establishment of the Working Group for Prevention of Violence in the Education System and calls on authorities to urgently set up a Working Group for guiding and monitoring the implementation of the Strategy to systematically address the problem of violence against children. Moreover, addressing violence prevention must go hand in hand with the implementation of the Programme for Protection of Mental Health in the Republic of Serbia.
UNICEF remains committed to continuing our work with the government, ministries, and other partners in order to create an enabling environment free from violence and abuse for every child in Serbia.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/serbia