UN expert studying violence against children cites progress in many States
“No country in the world can say, ‘We don’t have problems of violence against children’ – North, South, East, West, developed and non-developed countries are united in this commonality,” the independent expert, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, told a press briefing.
Citing “a lot of political will” in each country to address the problem, he said: “I have hope.”
The first findings are to be presented to the UN Commission on Human Rights in April 2006, and will try to explicate the forms, causes and impact of violence affecting children and young people under 18 years of age.
Led by Mr. Pinheiro, the research was mandated by the General Assembly in 2001, and is jointly supported by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR).
So far 122 questionnaires have been returned to the study group, representing nine regions of the world, Mr. Pinheiro said. The responses include information on each government’s legal and legislative tools to protect children, recourse for children affected by violence, and measures the scope of the problem. They also recommend actions to reduce harm.
The initial results, said Mr. Pinheiro, demonstrate the States’ “attitude of non-denial regarding the gaps between the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its implementation.”
The questionnaire asks States to detail how violence occurs in different settings, such as schools, homes, orphanages and other institutions as well as work situations and on the streets. As part of his research, Mr. Pinheiro also met with more than 400 children or adolescents who provided input to the study.
One such participant, Abigail McIntyre of Grenada’s National Council on the Rights of the Child, told the briefing that 5 per cent of the people arrested for violent crime in her country are under the age of 25, while every day young people are stabbed, shot, and wounded. Even though corporeal punishment in schools is illegal, teachers regularly engaged in the practice, she added.
An estimated 40 million children globally under the age of 15 suffer from violence, abuse, and neglect, said UNICEF, and this study is a “groundbreaking effort” to provide the first detailed look at how children experience violence all over the world, and what must be done to prevent and end the scourge.