Violent discipline, emotional and sexual abuse stalks millions of children worldwide – UNICEF

Violence against children – some as young as one year old – is pervasive in homes, schools and communities, new report with disturbing data reveals

02 November 2017

DAR ES SALAAM & NEW YORK, 2 November 2017 – Staggering numbers of children – some as young as 12-months-old – are experiencing violence, often by those entrusted to take care of them, UNICEF said in a new report released today.

The report entitled A Familiar Face: Violence in the lives of children and adolescents reveals that:

Violence against children in their homes:

  • Three-quarters of the world’s 2- to 4-year-old children – around 300 million – experience psychological aggression and/or physical punishment by their caregivers at home;
  • Around 6 in 10 one year olds in 30 countries with available data are subjected to violent discipline on a regular basis. Nearly a quarter of one-year-olds are physically shaken as punishment and nearly 1 in 10 are hit or slapped on the face, head or ears.
  • Worldwide, 1 in 4 children under age five – 177 million – are living with a mother who is a victim of intimate partner violence.

Sexual violence against girls and boys:

  • Worldwide, around 15 million adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 have experienced forced sexual intercourse or other forced sexual acts in their lifetime.
  • Globally, only 1 per cent of adolescent girls who had experienced sexual violence said they reached out for professional help.
  • In the 28 countries with data, 90 per cent of adolescent girls who had experienced forced sex, on average, said the perpetrator of the first incident was known to them. Data from six countries reveals friends, classmates and partners were among the most frequently cited perpetrators of sexual violence against adolescent boys.

Violent deaths among adolescents:

  • Globally, every 7 minutes an adolescent is killed by an act of violence.
  • In 2015, the risk of being killed by homicide for a black adolescent boy in the United States was the same as the risk of dying due to collective violence in war-torn South Sudan.
  • Latin America and the Caribbean is the only region where adolescent homicide rates have increased; nearly half of all homicides among adolescents globally occurred in this region in 2015.

Violence in schools:

  • Half the population of school-age children – 732 million – live in countries where corporal punishment at school is not fully prohibited.

While the Report reveals that in Tanzania:

  • 27 per cent adolescents between 13 and 15 years reported being bullied at school.
  • 41 per cent children under five were living with a mother who had experienced any physical, sexual or emotional violence at the hands of her husband or partner.
  • 11 per cent girls 15-19 years experienced forced sex.
  • 52 per cent girls aged 15 to 19 cited husband/partner/boyfriend as perpetrators of the first incident of sexual violence.

An earlier survey on Violence against Children conducted in 2011 revealed:

Violence against young children in their homes:

  • Nearly 60 per cent of children report physical violence (being punched, whipped or kicked) by a close relative, mainly parents
  • Almost 3 out of 4 girls and boys experience physical violence before the age 18.

Sexual violence against girls and boys:

  • About 3 out of 10 girls and 1 out of 7 boys report experiencing at least one incidence of sexual violence prior to age 18.
  • Perpetrators of sexual violence, in most cases, are known. The violence commonly takes place in someone’s house, at school or while going to / coming back from school.

Violence in schools:

  • Corporal punishment is permitted by law in mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar – 1 out of 2 children report experiencing physical violence at the hands of teachers.

In Tanzania, ending violence against women and children is a priority. The Government of Tanzania launched the first National Plan of Action that addresses Violence against Women and Children in one single plan. The new National Plans of Action to End Violence against Women and Children were launched on the Mainland (in 2016) and in Zanzibar (in 2017). These plans recognize families, schools and communities as the first and most effective structures for prevention and response to violence.

Globally, UNICEF prioritizes efforts to end violence across all its work, including supporting government efforts to improve services for children affected by violence, developing policies and legislation that protect children, and helping communities, parents and children to prevent violence through practical programmes like parenting courses and actions against domestic violence.

To end violence against children, UNICEF is supporting the Government of Tanzania in:

  • Implementing the National Plan of Action to End violence against Women and Children – incorporating education, social welfare, justice and health systems, as well as communities and children themselves.
  • Changing behaviours of adults and addressing factors that contribute to violence against children, including economic and social inequities, social and cultural norms that condone violence, inadequate policies and legislation, insufficient services for victims, and limited investments in effective systems to prevent and respond to violence.
  • Focusing national policies on minimizing violent behaviour and reducing inequalities.
  • Building social service systems and training social workers to provide referrals, counselling and therapeutic services for children who have experienced violence.
  • Educating children, parents, teachers, and community members to recognise violence in all its many forms and empowering them to speak out and report violence safely.
  • Collecting better disaggregated data on violence against children.


Note to Editors

Multimedia content is available here.

Media contacts

Usia Ledama
Communication Specialist
UNICEF Tanzania
Tel: +255 762 871830


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 Tanzania and its work for children, visit

Follow UNICEF on Twitter and Facebook