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SECRETARY-GENERAL’S STUDY ON VIOLENCE AGAINST CHILDREN: Tolerance of everyday violence against children must end

Bangkok/Hanoi, 19 October 2006 - Leading child-rights organizations urged governments from East Asia and the Pacific to take swift action to prevent and respond to pervasive everyday violence affecting millions of children. The call was made at a symposium held today to highlight the findings of the newly released UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence Against Children, which sheds new light on the scale and scope of abuse against children in the region and globally. 

“Much violence against children is shrouded in shame and secrecy, yet as this landmark study reveals, it is pervasive”, said Anupama Rao Singh, UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Director. “Under the Convention on the Rights of Child every child has right to be protected from violence and abuse. Governments must act to fulfill their obligation to prevent and eliminate violence against children.”

The UN Secretary-General’s Study is the first to provide a comprehensive global view of the range and scale of everyday violence against children. It combines human rights, public health and child protection perspectives in five different settings where abuse occurs: the home and family, schools and educational settings, institutions (care and judicial) the workplace, and the community.

Power relations between children and adults, deeply embedded hierarchal traditions and gender inequality contribute to the physical and psychological violence against children, the study notes.

“While we often think that violence against children is inflicted by violent people, in fact, it is often practiced in many areas of a child’s life by family, society and the state,” said Laurence Gray, Regional Advocacy Director for World Vision.  “It is unacceptable to beat, to strike and to emotionally or psychologically crush any child in any setting.”

Children with disabilities, children belonging to minority groups or living on the streets, children in conflict with the law, children living in institutions and those who are refugees or displaced from their homes are particularly vulnerable to violence.

According to Speaking Out!, a 2001 UNICEF survey of children in East Asia and the Pacific, almost one quarter of the young respondents reported that their parents beat them when they did something wrong. A 2005 Save the Children survey conducted in eight countries cited hair pulling, ear twisting, pinching, smacking, beating, burning and verbal assaults – plus a high level of kicking and punching – as common forms of punishment.

The use of corporal punishment in schools is prohibited by law in China, Thailand, Philippines and Viet Nam, however it is still widely practiced and culturally accepted as a form of discipline in most countries in the region, including those that have outlawed it.

Viet Nam has formulated several legal documents to address violence against children. The child protection strategy that was drafted with UNICEF's support is being revised by the Government, aims at preventing and responding to abuse and maltreatments of children and young people below 18 years of age.  In 2004, the Code of Professional Practice for Social Work was approved and social work courses have commenced at several universities in Viet Nam. In addition, the Guidelines for Community-Based Child Protection Network, and for Child Maltreatment Risk Assessment have been drafted.

A national goal on care and protection of children in need of special protection (CNSP) has been integrated in Viet Nam Social Economic Development Plan (2006-2010) providing very good basis to advocate for increased budget allocations to address the issue of violence against children at national and sub-national levels. Government of Viet Nam has also invested resources in enhancing awareness and ensuring that children are involved in addressing the issue of violence against children. However many challenges still remain which require due attention from both the Government and the development community.

Viet Nam has a limited number of professional social workers who are able to conduct risk assessments on child abuse and maltreatment. This seriously affects the type of services that are provided to each child, which are often not tailored to his/her specific needs. The monitoring and data collection system is also not comprehensive enough to provide reliable data on the magnitude and nature of violence against children in Viet Nam.

“The United Nations will continue to support the Government of Viet Nam to formulate and implement a strong response to protect children and prevent further spread of violence against children in Viet Nam”, said John Hendra, the Resident Coordinator for the United Nations in Viet Nam.

A growing area of concern in the region is the threat of violence against children as a result of new technologies in cyberspace.  According to ECPAT an estimated 1 billion people will be mobile phone subscribers by 2010 (up from the 230 million in 2000), whilst Asia leads the way with the most number of people now using the internet. Currently, 12 per cent of children in the region, under 15 years of age, have a mobile phone.

“We have been late in recognizing that the benefits of new technologies are increasingly offset by adverse effects on children,” said Carmen Madrinan, Executive Director of ECPAT.  “The shocking reality is that such new technologies are increasingly employed by networks of child traffickers, sex tourists and paedophiles to facilitate organized sexual abuse and violence. Better understanding of the forces that affect children in cyberspace will result in better protection of their right to live free from exploitation".

The study’s findings, informed by consultations, questionnaires and interviews were enriched by the participation of children who made key contributions by helping to understand the various forms of violence and its effects upon them.  

Representing young people from the region, Michael Sheehan-Bendall from New Zealand, Lorelie Limbang from the Philippines, and Hoang Thi Hue from Viet Nam told the symposium’s audience of ambassadors and agency heads that it is crucial to involve young people in addressing violence in their communities and urged governments to ensure that they are integral to strategies that resolve to end violence against children.

The UN Study, led by Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the Independent Expert appointed by the Secretary-General, calls for a wide range of actions to be taken to prevent and respond to violence against children across all settings where it occurs.  Twelve overarching recommendations address areas such as national strategies and systems, data collection and ensuring accountability.  Member states will have to report their progress to the General Assembly in 2009.

For further information, please contact:

Caroline den Dulk (Ms), Chief of Communication Section, UNICEF Viet Nam
Tel: + 844 942 5706, Mobile: 84 91 4756592

Le Hong Loan (Ms), Chief of Child Protection Section, UNICEF Viet Nam
Tel: + 844 942 5706 ext 287,




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