According to the UN Secretary General’s study on Violence against Children, much violence against children still remains hidden and is often socially approved.
The report, presented recently to the UN General Assembly in New York, noted that violence against children includes physical violence, psychological violence, discrimination, neglect and maltreatment.
The violence ranges from sexual abuse in the home to corporal and humiliating punishment at school, from the use of physical restraints in children’s home to brutality at the hands of law enforcement officers, from abuse and neglect in institutions to gang warfare on the streets, where children play or work, from infanticide to so-called ‘honour’ killings.
According to a UN press release, in Botswana, some of these issues are already being handled by child welfare organizations. The release stated that between January and September 2006, Childline Botswana recorded 380 cases, ranging from neglect, physical and emotional abuse, sodomy, rape, incest, defilement and harassment.
“The majority of the cases were of children who simply walked into the Centre to seek refuge. This may understate the extent of the problem as others are scared to report these occurrences or are kept quiet by the perpetrators or their families,” explains UNICEF Communication Officer, Kutloano Leshomo.
The UN letter said the study, which combines human rights, public health and child protection perspectives, focused on five settings where violence occurs.
These settings included the home and family, schools and educational settings, institutions (care and judicial), the workplace and, lastly, the community.
“Extreme violence against children may hit the headlines but the Study concludes that for many children, violence is routine, a part of their daily reality,” says Leshomo, adding that though much violence remains hidden or unreported, and figures therefore often underestimate the scope of the problem, the statistics in the report reveal a startling picture.
Concurring with what Leshomo said, the UN release stated that in 2002, WHO estimated that some 53 000 children aged 0 ÔÇô 17 died as a result of homicide.
It also stated that in 16 developing countries reviewed by a Global School-Based Health Survey, the percentage of school-aged children that reported having been verbally or physically bullied at school in the previous 30 days ranged from 20 percent in some countries to as much as 65 per cent in others
According to the release, the physical, emotional and psychological scars of violence can have severe implications for a child’s development. Health risk behaviours later in life such as smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, physical inactivity and obesity may occur. In turn, these behaviours contribute to some of the leading causes of disease and death, including cancer, depression, suicide and cardiovascular disorder.
The report to the General Assembly calls for a wide range of action to be taken to prevent and respond to violence against children across all the settings where it occurs.