Violent discipline, sexual abuse stalk millions of children worldwide – UNICEF

Violence against children – some as young as one year old – is pervasive in homes, schools and communities, new report with disturbing data reveals

1 November 2017, Harare – Staggering numbers of children – some as young as 12 months old – are experiencing violence, often by those entrusted to take care of them, UNICEF said in a new report released today.

“The harm inflicted on children around the world is truly worrying,” said UNICEF Chief of Child Protection Cornelius Williams. “Babies slapped in the face; girls and boys forced into sexual acts; adolescents murdered in their ViolentDiscipline_0.jpgcommunities – violence against children spares no one and knows no boundaries.”

The A Familiar Face: Violence in the lives of children and adolescents Report uses the very latest data to show that children experience violence across all stages of childhood and in all settings.

At an event held at UNICEF Harare today, Government, partners and donors called upon all members of society to pay an active role in protecting children against violence, especially within the homes.

Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Acting Director, Mr. Sneddon Soko applauded the Government’s partnership with UNICEF in fighting Violence Against Children.

 “Zimbabwe has taken great strides in the fight against Violence Against Children by carrying out key research to understand the root causes and manifestations of Violence Aganst Children and identifying elements on how to tackle these issues especially in the homes,” Soko said.

Chief Magistrate Mishood Guvamombe of the Judicial Services Commission lamented the rise of sexual abuse cases around the country.

“The worrisome thing is that according to our statistics, 60% of these cases are being perpetrated by people known to the survivors. Most of these incidents are happening in our homes which have always been perceived to be safe havens for our children,” he said.

Childline Zimbabwe called upon parents and care givers to play a more active role in raising their children, as most cases of child abuse go undetected due to lack of time spent with their children.

“In this age of technology, parents need not be replaced by gadgets,” said Stella Motsi, National Director of Childline. “Parents need to pay close attention, listen actively and believe their children, because abuse may be hidden behind a familiar face.”

The Governments of Sweden the United Kingdom and Switzerland are supporting the Government of Zimbabwe through the Child Protection Fund, a multi-donor pooled fund that ensures access to child protection services including victims of violence.

“Child Rights is at the heart of everything we do,” said Maria Selin, Deputy Ambassador, and Head of Development at the Embassy of Sweden. “It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure our children are protected through evidence based interventions.

“When we read in the report that 15 million girls in the world are being abused, that is the equivelant of the entire population of Zimbabwe. That is a staggering amount,” said UNICEF Deputy Representative, Dr. Jane Muita. “It is the responsibility of you, me, and everyone here to end Violence Against Children.

Key findings from the report include:

Violence against young children in their homes:

  • Three-quarters of the world’s 2- to 4-year-old children – around 300 million – experience psychological aggression and/or physical punishment by their caregivers at home;
  • Around 6 in 10 one year olds in 30 countries with available data are subjected to violent discipline on a regular basis. Nearly a quarter of one-year-olds are physically shaken as punishment and nearly 1 in 10 are hit or slapped on the face, head or ears.
  • Worldwide, 1 in 4 children under age five – 176 million – are living with a mother who is a victim of intimate partner violence.

Sexual violence against girls and boys:

  • Worldwide, around 15 million adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 have experienced forced sexual intercourse or other forced sexual acts in their lifetime.
  • Only 1 per cent of adolescent girls who had experienced sexual violence said they reached out for professional help.
  • In the 28 countries with data, 90 per cent of adolescent girls who had experienced forced sex, on average, said the perpetrator of the first incident was known to them. Data from six countries reveals friends, classmates and partners were among the most frequently cited perpetrators of sexual violence against adolescent boys.

Violence in schools:

  • Half the population of school-age children – 732 million – live in countries where corporal punishment at school is not fully prohibited.

Three-quarters of documented school shootings that have taken place over the past 25 years occurred in the United States

UNICEF prioritises efforts to end violence across all its work, including supporting government efforts to improve services for children affected by violence, developing policies and legislation that protect children, and helping communities, parents and children to prevent violence through practical programmes like parenting courses and actions against domestic violence.

For more information, please contact: Victor Chinyama, Chief of Communications, UNICEF Zimbabwe, Tel: + 263 772 104 579, vchinyama@unicef.org