ENDING IN CHILDHOOD VIOLENCE
Children are all too often victims of persistent violence. This need not be the case. Violence in childhood can be ended – through concerted efforts and collective action, maybe within a single generation.
Many millions of children all over the world are subjected to violence in their everyday lives. Such violence takes place in homes, in families, in schools, in institutions and on city streets – where they can be subject to all manner of violence, whether in the form of beating, bullying, corporal punishment, sexual violence or even murder. For many children, there is no safe place.
Thus far, efforts to address these and other forms of violence against children have been inspired and driven by the 1989 United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Reflecting the CRC, this Report uses the term “violence” to cover behaviour that can result in serious physical or psychological harm for children. It includes violence perpetrated against children by adults and caregivers, as well as peer violence, perpetrated by children against children. Additionally, it includes children witnessing violence within
the home, school or community. For that reason, the Report uses the overall term “violence in childhood”.
WORKING TO END VIOLENCE AGAINST CHILDREN
ENDING VIOLENCE AGAINST CHILDREN BY 2030 – A NEW AGENDA
Unlike the Millennium Development Goals, which failed to address children’s protection rights, the new comprehensive 2030 development agenda – ‘Transforming our world: the 2030 agenda for sustainable development’ – includes goals and targets to end violence against children. This creates a historic opportunity to protect all children from all forms of violence. To achieve these targets, governments, the private sector, civil society, faithbased organisations and academia need to come together and demonstrate results for children. The new Global Partnership to End Violence against Children has been set up under the leadership of UNICEF to make the prevention of violence a policy priority and to support implementation of the violence targets. Save the Children will continue to play a leading role in influencing and supporting the partnership. We are also framing our 2016–18 child protection thematic plan around the 2030 development agenda, building on the growing evidence showing that ending violence against children is possible.
Reporting of Child Protection and Child Abuse
Parents and guardians have a fundamental right and responsibility to raise their
children as they see appropriate and society presumes that parents will act in their
children’s best interests. When caregivers are unable and/or unwilling to protect
their children from harm and meet their basic needs in terms of safety, security and
well-being, society has a responsibility to intervene to protect the health and welfare
of each child.
Implicit in these principles is the importance of accountability for the provision
of services to prevent child abuse and protect children. Service providers, especially
those who are mandated to protect children, are accountable for what they do and/
or fail to do.
The key principles relating to child protection shape the basic values underlying the
community and professional responses to child abuse and neglect:
■ The need for prevention programs to strengthen families and reduce the
likelihood of child abuse. While there is no single known cause of child abuse,
researchers have noted that some potential factors contributing to child abuse
– teen parenting
– lack of knowledge of childhood development
– unrealistic expectations
– parents who were abused as children
– poor housing conditions
– sudden changes in family circumstances
– domestic and community violence
– substance abuse
– mental illness
– poor family and neighbourhood supports
Caring for a child can be fun and rewarding, but it can also be
stressful and is not always easy. Sometimes children do not
get the care they need and their families may need help from
friends, family and their community.
A child may be harmed in any family or neighbourhood. It is
not something that people like to talk about but it can happen
to a child who attends your local school or plays in your local
sporting team. Child abuse is not isolated to particular social
groups or areas.
All adults have a responsibility to protect children from harm.
The information in this booklet is designed to help you make
informed decisions to help ensure children are safe.
The booklet provides information about child abuse and its
impact on a child’s life. It also provides advice on what to do if
a child tells you they have been harmed or if you suspect that
a child has been harmed.
This information is relevant for all adults who have contact with
Organisations providing programs or activities for children can
use the information in this booklet to better inform policies and
procedures for handling suspicions of abuse or disclosures by
a child about harm.
Ending corporal punishment and other cruel and degrading punishment of children through law reform and social change
Put simply, corporal punishment is “any punishment in which physical force is used and
intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light”. This is the definition
adopted by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the monitoring body for the UN
Convention on the Rights of the Child, in 2006 (see box below for the full definition).1
To make it absolutely clear that the definition covers all forms of corporal punishment
and all degrees of severity without exception – including “light” physical punishments
which are often lawful, widely practised and not commonly understood as “violence” – the
“Most [corporal punishment] 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, 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, corporal punishment is invariably degrading.”
The Committee also recognises non-physical forms of punishment which are harmful for
children and from which they have a right to protection:
“In addition, there are other non-physical forms of punishment that are also cruel and
degrading and thus incompatible with the Convention. These include, for example,
punishment which belittles, humiliates, denigrates, scapegoats, threatens, scares or
ridicules the child.”
When we talk about ending corporal punishment of children, we are talking about ending
all corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishment, in all settings,
including the home, schools, juvenile justice systems, alternative care settings and
situations where children are working.
THE IMPACT OF VIOLENCE ON CHILDREN’S LIVES: A SNAPSHOT OF LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN
Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) faces very high levels of violence towards children and adolescents. In recent years, there has been a spike of violence particularly boys, homicides often linked to gang activities and the migration of unaccompanied children. Sexual exploitation often linked to human trafficking is also widespread across the region especially amongst girls. Both the immediate and long-term – physical and psychological consequences of such violence are serious and affect the wellbeing of children and adolescents, their community and at a national and regional level, impede economic opportunity and development. Violence against children takes many forms including neglect, mental and physical violence, corporal punishment, sexual abuse and exploitation, torture, violence amongst children (ex. bullying) and selfharm. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child defines violence as ‘all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment,maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse.’1 The Convention furthermore stipulates that a child-rights approach to violence means that children are respected and recognized as right-bearing individuals. It requires that the dignity and physical and psychological integrity of a child is
protected and acknowledged.
The impact of six years of war on the mental health of Syria’s children
For the past six years, children in Syria have been bombed and starved. They have seen their friends and families die before their eyes or buried under the rubble of their homes. They have watched their schools and hospitals destroyed, been denied food, medicine and vital aid, and been torn apart from their families and friends as they ﬂee the ﬁghting. Every year that the war goes on plumbs new, previously unimaginable depths of violence against children, and violations of international law by all sides. The psychological toll of living through six years of not knowing if this day will be their last is enormous. At least 3 million Syrian children under the age of six know nothing but war, and millions more have grown up in fear under the shadow of conﬂict. They are the next generation who will have to rebuild their shattered country – their future and the very future of Syria is in the balance. The stakes could not be higher. Studies into the mental health of Syrian refugee children have shown staggering levels of trauma and distress. However, much less is known about the impact on children still inside the country, one in four of whom is now at risk of developing mental health disorders.1 To begin to further understand and address this urgent problem, Save the Children and partner organisations managed to speak with more than 450 children and adults inside seven of Syria’s 14 governorates about how the conﬂict has affected children’s daily lives, their main causes of stress and fear, who they turn to for help, and how they cope with constant war – a waking nightmare that seems to them as though it may never end.