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UN expert urges intensified measures to combat violence against children

UN expert urges intensified measures to combat violence against children

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro
A United Nations expert today urged representatives of governments from across the world meeting in Vienna to intensify national and international efforts to combat violence against children, including sexual exploitation and other forms of abuse.

“Much violence against children, whether inside homes, schools, care and justice institutions, the workplace or the community – is implicitly socially condoned and remains invisible,” the Independent Expert for the Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, told the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.

Mr. Pinheiro, who worked on a major Study on the issue requested by the Secretary-General, found that, despite repeated commitments to protect children’s rights, in every region of the world violence against children persists.

The expert noted that children can suffer abuse in a variety of settings, including at school or in detention facilities. In addition, an estimated 1 million children are forced to work in prostitution, child pornography or similar activities each year. “Many are coerced, kidnapped, sold and deceived into these activities, or are victims of trafficking,” he said.

But he also pointed out that children are also vulnerable to sexual violence and exploitation from members of the community. “Sexual violence is more commonly perpetrated by someone known to the child such as family members or adults in positions of trust, but it is also perpetrated by people whom the child does not know.”

Mr. Pinheiro outlined a series of measures to address the problem, calling for all countries to ratify and implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Optional Protocols on the involvement of children in armed conflict and on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, as well as the and the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

“I urge States to prohibit all forms of violence against children in all settings, including sexual violence,” he said, calling also for countries to reduce the numbers of children entering justice systems by decriminalizing offences that are only a crime when committed by youth, such truancy, running away from home, or being “beyond parental control” as well as survival behaviours such as begging, selling sex, scavenging, loitering or vagrancy, and victimization by trafficking or criminal exploitation.

Mr. Pinheiro urged stepped-up global efforts to protect all children from trafficking and sexual exploitation. Among other measures, he recommended enhancing the prosecution of offences relating to the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

In addition, he underscored the need to strengthen efforts to combat the use of information technologies, including the Internet, mobile phones and electronic games, in the sexual exploitation of children and other forms of violence.

“Children have been too often placed at a low level in the debate by the international community and are too rarely truly heard,” said the Representative. “This thematic debate today is an indication that the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice is committed to changing this pattern and should give all of us – and particularly children – real cause for optimism.”

The Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children was presented last year to the General Assembly after almost three years of an intense participatory process involving governments, hundreds of civil society organizations, experts and children and adolescents delegates around the world.