More must be done to protect Latin American children from violence – UN panel

3 June 2005

Latin American children must be taught non-violence and have their rights protected since they experience violence mainly in family homes and Government institutions, according to a regional expert panel assembled by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Latin American children must be taught non-violence and have their rights protected since they experience violence mainly in family homes and Government institutions, according to a regional expert panel assembled by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The 250 experts, who met for three days in Buenos Aires, Argentina, signed the Buenos Aires Declaration on Violence against Children and Adolescents, which said that for children and women, Latin America is one of the most violent regions in the world.

The Declaration recommends improvements in such areas as determining criminal responsibility and sentencing and banning corporal and psychological punishment as disciplinary methods, as well as ensuring the quality and equity of free education.

To draw attention to the tragedy of violence against children, which plagues all regions of the world, the UN commissioned a Global Study on the topic, based on consultations with governments, social organizations in each country, and children. Leading the study is independent expert Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro from Brazil, who initiated the second round of consultations in Latin America Monday in Buenos Aires.

Nearly 100 countries, including 18 in Latin America, have already responded to the consultations through questionnaires. The study will be presented next year to the General Assembly once the round of consultations currently behind carried out in nine regions is completed.

“Democratic consolidation in Latin America will only be possible when children are educated in respect, freedom and non-violence and protected against any violation of their rights,” Mr. Pinheiro said. “According to the last days’ findings, values promoted by the family and institutions are often authoritarian values that use violence as their main tool.”

Most of the abuses against children, including sexual assaults on girls, take place behind closed doors by trusted adults – parents, family members and family friends – the experts concluded. Children often suffer alone, afraid of speaking out or being punished, they said.

“The silence and the unacceptable tolerance that surrounds abuse in family settings contribute to the current state of widespread impunity. We need a social movement from all Latin Americans, women and men, to break this silence now,” Nils Kastberg, Regional Director of UNICEF Americas and Caribbean Regional Office, said.

In prisons, police stations and internment centres, the regional Governments, “instead of playing their role in protecting children and promoting their best interests are often the ones that perpetrate acts of violence against them, violating their rights,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ (UNHCHR) Roberto Garretón said.

In organizing the regional consultation, UNICEF collaborated with UNHCHR, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) of the UN World Health Organization (WHO), the Government of Argentina, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and a committee of regional non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

 

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