Europe-Central Asia region must act now on violence against children – UNICEF

6 July 2005

With 1,300 children under age 14 dying in homicides or assaults every year in the European Region alone, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has called on governments, UN agencies, professionals, civil society, communities, families and children themselves to act now to uproot the scourge of violence against youngsters.

“In the next 24 hours, four children in the European region will die as a result of violence. And those are the cases that come to light – there are many more that don’t,” UNICEF Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe, Maria Calivis, told a three-day conference that opened yesterday in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on violence against children in Europe and Central Asia.

“We must ask why, when every child has the absolute right to a non-violent upbringing, so many continue to suffer. We must examine the causes of violence: the discrimination that fuels violence against children because of their gender, their ethnicity, their disability or their religion; the frustration, isolation and poor parenting that can lead to abuse and neglect; the social acceptance that allows children to be treated with cruelty,” she added.

The conference, Stop Violence Against Children – ACT NOW, is hosted by the Slovenian Government and organized in close collaboration with UNICEF, the UN World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Council of Europe.

It is one of nine worldwide that will feed into a major study by Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Violence Against Children, headed by Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, which is due out next year.

Delegates old and young – some 25 youngsters are attending – will draw up a list of things to do now and in the medium and longer term to shine a spotlight on the often hidden issue and to set up effective avenues of redress for those trapped in the terror, isolation and silence of brutality.

One of the problems is the gap in knowledge on violence against children – UNICEF calls it “a regional affront” – with spotty research providing only an approximation. But among the few available regional data are studies carried out in 14 European countries putting the rate of sexual abuse both within and outside the family at 9 per cent.

“We must ask why, when every child has the absolute right to a non-violent upbringing, so many continue to suffer,” Ms. Calivis said. “We must examine the causes of violence: the discrimination that fuels violence against children because of their gender, their ethnicity, their disability or their religion; the frustration, isolation and poor parenting that can lead to abuse and neglect; the social acceptance that allows children to be treated with cruelty.”

Studies show that no country is exempt. “Even the most structured areas of community life can have hidden dangers,” Ms. Calivis added. Children face violence in leisure time, in clubs and even in religious settings. They may be forced to train too hard for competitive sports, or face corporal punishment or sexual abuse by those supposed to be caring for them.

 

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