80,000 young die every year in Latin America, Caribbean due to family violence – UN

17 November 2006

Scores of thousands of children and adolescents in Latin America and the Caribbean die every year because of violence related to a combination of extreme economic and social inequalities, the predominant culture of “machismo” and failure to implement existing legal protection, according to a United Nations-led study.

Scores of thousands of children and adolescents in Latin America and the Caribbean die every year because of violence related to a combination of extreme economic and social inequalities, the predominant culture of “machismo” and failure to implement existing legal protection, according to a United Nations-led study.

“All countries can and must put an end to violence against children,” said Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, the Independent Expert appointed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to lead the study. “This doesn’t mean being limited to punishing the aggressors, but it is necessary to transform the mindset of societies and the underlying social and economic conditions of violence.”

A large part of this violence, which includes physical, sexual and psychological violence, discrimination and abandonment, remains hidden and is occasionally socially sanctioned, according to the study, launched yesterday in Panama City.

It calls on governments to develop national strategies to prevent violence by next year, with a ministerial-level authority to be responsible and to prohibit all forms of violence against children, including corporal punishment. It estimates that social and health consequences associated with violence represent an annual cost of some $145 billion, or 12 percent of regional gross domestic product.

“In this region, around 80,000 children and adolescents die every year as a result of violence within the family,” UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Regional Director Nils Kastberg said. “The high levels of violence violate the rights of children and halt the democratic and economic development of the countries.

“The violence that is lived and learned in the home and the violence that exists in society are intertwined; the transmission of intergenerational violence, which is a grave obstacle to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to create more just and stable societies, has to be stopped,” he added, referring to the targets adopted by the UN Millennium summit that seek to eradicate a host of social ills by 2015.

The tolerance of violence against children in many cases favours the impunity of the aggressors and shows a lack of real political commitment to put an end to these grave human rights abuses. Further, the absence of reliable information-gathering hampers any ability to evaluate the impact of adopted policies and calls into question the commitment of governments to put an end to this unacceptable situation, the study stresses.

 

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