Because children have the right to freedom from violence
Children are holders of rights and agents of change. Children’s rights, including their right to protection from harm, must be safeguarded and promoted everywhere and at all times. In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child must be a primary consideration.
Preserving children’s human dignity and their right to be protected from violence is not just common sense and basic morality; it is a legal obligation enshrined in human rights treaties, in particular in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
It is High Time to respect children’s dignity and safeguard the enjoyment of their rights.
Because violence affects and worries millions of children
Violence against children is widespread and happens everywhere. It haunts the lives of millions of children; in their schools and neighborhoods, in institutions established for their care and protection, in detention centers, online and across borders, and also within their homes. There are many forms of physical, psychological and sexual violence. These include neglect, physical assault, bullying, sexual abuse and sexual exploitation, trafficking, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, female genital mutilation/cutting, acid attacks, maiming, honor killings, forced begging, bonded labor and so many others. Social exclusion, poverty and discrimination list amongst the factors that fuel violence. Across regions, violence ranks at the top of children’s concerns.
These are the disturbing facts:
- Globally in 2014, 1 billion children aged 2–17 years experienced physical, sexual, emotional or multiple types of violence (Source: Hillis S, Mercy J, Amobi A, et al. Global Prevalence of Past-year Violence Against Children: A Systematic Review and Minimum Estimates. Pediatrics. 2016;137(3):e20154079).
- Almost a billion children between the ages of 2 and 14 worldwide are subjected to physical punishment by their care-givers on a regular basis (Source: Hidden in Plain Sight: A statistical analysis of violence against children. UNICEF 2014).
- 120 million girls under the age of 20 (about 1 in 10) have been subjected to forced sexual intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives. Boys are also at risk, although a global estimate is difficult to assess (Source: Hidden in Plain Sight: A statistical analysis of violence against children. UNICEF 2014).
- The 2014 WHO Global Status Report estimates that the lifetime prevalence rate of childhood sexual abuse is 18% for girls and 7.6% for boys (source: WHO Global Status Report 2014. Page. 14).
- Half of all girls aged 15 to 19 worldwide (around 126 million) think it is sometimes justified for a husband to beat his wife (source: Hidden in Plain Sight: A statistical analysis of violence against children. UNICEF 2014).
- In 2012, homicide took the lives of about 95,000 children and adolescents under the age of 20 – almost 1 in 5 of all homicide victims that year (source: World Health Organization, Global Health Estimates (GHE) Summary Tables: Deaths by cause, age, sex and region, 2012, WHO, Geneva, 2014, recalculated by UNICEF in Hidden in Plain Sight: A statistical analysis of violence against children, page 34).
- Child Marriage: Each year, 15 million girls are married before the age of 18. That is 28 girls every minute (source:http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/about-child-marriage/)
- Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: more than 130 million girls and women have experienced it in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East, where the practice is most common(source: http://www.unicef.org/protection/57929_58002.html)
- Child Trafficking: Globally, children comprise nearly one third of all detected trafficking victims. Out of every three child victims, two are girls and one is a boy (source: UNODC, Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2014).
- Child labor: 168 million children are in child labor. More than half of them, 85 million, are in hazardous work. More than 11 million are girls in domestic work (source: http://www.ilo.org/global/topics/child-labour/lang–en/index.htm).
It is High Time to address the root causes of violence and create safe environments for children.
Because violence has serious consequences for both children and society
The impacts of violence can be irreversible, leaving long-lasting scars and severely undermining children’s physical, mental and social development. Long-term exposure to violence in very young children causes toxic stress that can inhibit brain development. Violence increases the risk of poor health, poor school performance and long-term welfare dependency. It is often associated with poverty and deprivation, and acts as a brake on the potential of individuals and nations to develop. In most cases, children only count on their own resilience to overcome trauma. Violence ranks at the top of children’s concerns.
Beyond the negative impact on child victims and their families, violence weakens the very foundation of social progress, generating far-reaching costs for society, slowing economic development and eroding nations’ human and social capital.
In recent years, a number of academic studies have developed methodologies to try to make global estimates of the costs of violence against children. All studies on this subject acknowledge that the figures they produce are highly likely to be underestimates of the true figure, due to the lack of data on the prevalence of violence. A comprehensive study conducted in 2014 by the UK Overseas Development Institute estimated that globally, US$7 trillion is lost due to violence against children each year equivalent to 8% of global GDP.
It is High Time to assess and address the impact of violence.
Because violence should never be kept hidden
Violence is underreported. A very small proportion of violent incidents actually come to authorities’ attention. Children suffer in silence, not knowing who to turn to for help. When children do report violence, responses are not always adequate, which leaves them defenseless and at further risk of victimization. Many children are abused or exploited by people they know and depend on. Many adults witness or suspect violence against children and do not know what to do about it. Lack of knowledge and data on the real extent and impact of violence compromises the development of effective evidence-based interventions. More needs to be done to understand this phenomenon, to unveil its true extent and identify the factors which influence children’s and adults’ resilience and capacity to prevent, report and respond to violence.
It is High Time to uncover violence.
Because violence is never justifiable
Some forms of violence are perpetuated because they are condoned by particular social norms, beliefs and deeply rooted attitudes. Millions of children endure harmful practices, including female genital mutilation, early and forced marriage, breast ironing, male-child preference, female infanticide, virginity testing, honor crimes, bonded labor, forced feeding and nutritional taboos, accusation of witchcraft, as well as a great number of other lesser-known practices.
Millions of children are regularly beaten by their parents or carers. In most countries, corporal punishment is still practiced by many. Parents, carers and teachers do not necessarily realize that physical and humiliating punishment is a form of violence.
Society needs a paradigm change in the way it perceives and treats children. It is key that we change the persisting social norms, beliefs and deeply rooted attitudes and behaviors that condone, tolerate or promote violence against children. Many adults need support in learning how to educate children without using violence.
It is High Time to build a culture of zero tolerance for violence.
Because violence can be prevented and eliminated
Together with other international human rights instruments, the Convention on the Rights of the Child provides a sound normative foundation for preventing and addressing violence against children in all its forms.
Despite the pervasiveness of violence, it is important to stress that violence does not have to be considered fate. Progress made since the 2006 UN Study on Violence against Children shows a clear increase in national efforts to prevent violence, protect children, and ensure that perpetrators of violence are held to account. Additionally, there is a growing understanding of how and why violence against children persists and of the impact measures taken to prevent and respond to it have.
Responses to the Global Survey published in 2014 suggest that violence against children is becoming more visible on national agendas and more present in the public debate. Elimination of violence against children is a priority in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Positive developments include:
- An increase in the ratification and implementation of international treaties relevant to the protection of children from violence;
- The number of countries with policies in place to prevent and address violence against children has almost doubled;
- The number of countries banning violence in all settings and including a specific ban of corporal punishment in the home has almost tripled;
- Clear progress on legal protection of children from sexual abuse and exploitation;
- Growing movement to ban violence as a form of sentencing. This includes prohibition or a moratorium on inhuman sentencing for children and youth, such as life imprisonment and capital punishment;
- Increased awareness on the risks associated with information and communication technologies, as well as of the untapped potential of these technologies to report violence and support prevention;
- Increased efforts to prevent and eliminate violence against the girl child, including child marriage and FGM/Cutting;
- Growing influence of regional organizations and institutions that act as a bridge between international commitments and national realities;
- Growing support for children’s participation;
- Increased understanding of the risk factors and underlying causes that lead to violence – social, cultural, political, economic and environmental – and how, in turn, this violence is experienced by children as they grow up;
- Growing visibility of violence against children on the policy agenda and in public debate, and a gradual recognition of the human and social cost of this phenomenon, together with the high social return that investment in prevention can bring;
- The inclusion of the elimination of violence against children in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development!
It is High Time to show, promote and implement strategies that work
Because we can all contribute to ending violence against children
States’ accountability for children implies taking all necessary measures to guarantee them protection from violence. This includes supporting parents and caregivers in their up-bringing responsibilities, setting up well-resourced institutions and services to prevent and respond to incidents of violence, monitoring progress and impact, and cooperating with all actors including civil society, the corporate and the media sectors in preventing and responding to violence.
Governments, countless organizations and millions of individuals around the world share a commitment to supporting children’s rights and promoting non-violent values to secure their healthy development in a safe and nurturing environment. The High Time initiative aims to end violence against children via the transformative power of governments’ commitment and action, organizations and communities’ engagement, and people’s time and talent.
Zero is the sum of all forces. Zero violence. A broad mobilization can translate the vision of a violence-free world into a reality for all children. In the countdown towards the elimination of all forms of violence by 2030, everybody counts and everyone is needed!
It is High Time to join or create circles of non-violence. Let’s use this momentum and to promote an inclusive and unstoppable movement to end violence against children.