ABOUT one billion children worldwide, between the ages 2 and 14, are subjected to physical punishment by their parents and caregivers on a regular basis, according to a new United Nations (UN) report.
A report by United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) titled “Hidden in plain sight: A statistical analysis of violence against children,” showed the staggering extent of physical, sexual and emotional abuse — and revealed the attitudes that perpetuate and justify violence, keeping it ‘hidden in plain sight’ in every country and community in the world.
“These are uncomfortable facts — no government or parent will want to see them,” said Unicef Executive Director Anthony Lake. “But unless we confront the reality each infuriating statistic represents — the life of a child whose right to a safe, protected childhood has been violated — we will never change the mind-set that violence against children is normal and permissible. It is neither.”
The report said about 17 percent of the children in 58 countries are subject to severe forms of physical punishment, such as hitting on the head, ears or face or hitting hard and repeatedly.
It added that more than 40 percent of children, aged 2 to 14 years old, experienced severe physical punishment in Chad, Egypt and Yemen. Globally, three in 10 adults believe physical punishment is needed to raise children well. In Swaziland, 82 percent say physical punishment is necessary.
The UN also reported that slightly more than 1 in 3 students between the 13 and 15 years old worldwide are regularly bullied in school; in Samoa, the proportion is almost 3 in 4. Almost a third of students 11 to 15 years old in Europe and North America report bullying others – in Latvia and Romania, nearly 6 in 10 admit to bullying others.
The agency also revealed that close to half of all adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 (around 126 million) believe a husband is justified in hitting his wife under certain circumstances.
It added that around 120 million girls under the age of 20 worldwide (about 1 in 10) have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts, and one in 3 ever-married adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 (84 million) have been victims of emotional, physical or sexual violence committed by their husbands or partners.
The agency also reported that one fifth of homicide victims globally are children and adolescents under the age of 20, resulting in about 95,000 deaths in 2012.
Unicef points to six strategies to enable society as a whole, from families to governments, to prevent and reduce violence against children. They include supporting parents and equipping children with life skills; changing attitudes; strengthening judicial, criminal and social systems and services; and generating evidence and awareness about violence and its human and socio-economic costs, in order to change attitudes and norms.
“Violence against children occurs every day, everywhere. And while it harms individual children the most, it also tears at the fabric of society — undermining stability and progress. But violence against children is not inevitable. It is preventable — if we refuse to let violence remain in the shadows,” Lake said. “The evidence in this report compels us to act — for the sake of those individual children and the future strength of societies around.