Violence against children

Tragic consequences affect all aspects of a child’s life

Across the Asia Pacific region, children continue to experience sexual abuse and exploitation, the worst forms of child labour, human trafficking, corporal punishment, unnecessary institutionalization and violence in their homes, schools and communities. The tragic consequences of violence affect all aspects of a child’s life and can be passed down from one generation to the next. Violence against children also carries serious emotional and financial costs to all societies in every region of the world. It is estimated that violence against children costs US dollars seven trillion per year globally.

A regional campaign to end violence against children in the Asia Pacific was launched in Sri Lanka recently supported by World Vision and a host of collaborative organisations. Based on the theme, “It takes a world to end violence against children”, World Vision rolled out this campaign with partners across 17 countries in Asia Pacific, focusing on ending child marriage, sexual abuse, child trafficking, child labour, physical violence in schools and the home and corporal punishment.

Chief Guest of the conference, Secretary to the Ministry of Child Affairs, Chandrani Senarathne said Sri Lanka is a “Pathfinder Country” in the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children.

Leaders from Sri Lanka’s multiple faiths joined over 120 participants at the conference to examine their role to end violence against children while a separate panel featured youth leaders from Sri Lanka, Philippines, Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar in intense discussion.

Violence against children in Asia Pacific

South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC) Director General, Dr. Rinchen Chophel said it is important to create a common dialogue and a common agenda to eliminate violence against children. “Violence against children is not yet banned by law. The definitions of `child’ and `violence’ in national laws are inconsistent across the region compared to the Convention on the Rights of a Child definition. Corporal punishment of children is still permitted by law in many countries. Ending violence against children requires changing hearts and minds,” Dr. Chophel said.

SAIEVAC is a SAARC Apex body which is an inter-governmental body with a vision that all children, girls and boys, throughout South Asia enjoy their right to an environment free from all forms of violence, abuse, exploitation, neglect and discrimination.

According to the World Vision campaign publication, Asia Pacific has one of the highest rates of violence against children in the world with about 64 percent of children between two to 17 years experiencing violence over the past year. Globally, South Asia has the highest prevalence of child marriage and tops child labour cases in the world. In East Asia, nearly three out of every four children experience violent discipline.

“A coordinated child protection system is needed to end violence. It requires working with multiple aspects, interventions and actors at the same time. Today many agencies working towards to end violence brand children. A collective energy is needed to convince the national governments to fund the projects. To end violence against children in Asia Pacific, policy makers must engage a wide range of stakeholders including businesses in the private sector. Businesses must eliminate all practices in their own operations and services that promote violence against children and may also offer unique solutions and services to end violence,” Dr. Chophel added.

He said that the campaign will create a platform for everyone responsible to come together and share the information which will help to acquire a holistic approach.

Violence against children in Sri Lanka

The Secretary to the Ministry of Child Affairs, Chandrani Senarathne who was the Chief Guest at the event said Sri Lanka is a “Pathfinder Country” in the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children.

Government is taking the lead to end violence including abuse, neglect and exploitation against children by 2030. Sri Lankaalso launched its National Partnership to End Violence against Children (NPEVAC) in June 2017. It was launched as part of a bold, new collaborative partnership with key stakeholders including the government, UN agencies, international organizations, civil society, faith groups, the private sector, the media, children and other key stakeholders,” Senarathne said.

She added that this commitment will support the country’s drive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Currently, children in Sri Lanka are exposed to multiple forms of violence in their homes, schools, online and in their communities, with over 9,000 instances of violence involving children reported to the National Child Protection Agency (NCPA) in 2016.

Voice of the youth

The young leaders of Asia Pacific Region speaking at the conference strongly recommended specific actions to different leaders ending violence against children. “We pledge to engage in platforms for open conversation with the protectors in the communities and initiate opportunities for peer to peer discussions to bring about child protection. We urge the governments to provide sufficient budget to implement policies,” Durbar Child Forum President, Meghla Akter from Bangladesh said.

The young leaders appealed the faith leaders to utilize access of religious spaces and create space for children and young people. “We request them to have a right and collective interpretations of religious teachings, influence other sectors such as schools and business for the protection of children,” said David Ambalanavaner, 17 who hails from Jaffna.

Faith leaders take lead

Participating at the panel discussion `How faith leaders can boost efforts to end violence against children’, Ven. Galkande Dhammananda Thera of Walpola Rahula Institute said cultural thinking hinders reaching the community. “If you use violence to correct children, they will use violence when they act. The anger, desires and stress in adults end up as violence against children. Most parents are not actually qualified to be parents. The worst are teachers. Teaching is no longer a commitment but merely a job. Parents and teachers should learn to handle your own self before children,” Ven. Dhammananda Thera said.

Ven. Dhammananda Thera pointed out that no religion accepts violence even for self defence and said that faith leaders should build character and change the attitudes of the people. “Children belong to the entire humanity. We are responsible for the well being of children,” Ven. Dhammananda Thera added.

The faith leaders also pointed out that children grow up amidst violence being exposed to movies and games that include killing and fighting as a mode of entertainment.

They said these issues should be intervened mindfully to build back the value system which has been disrupted.

A separate panel featured youth leaders from Sri Lanka, Philippines, Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar in intense discussion.

The global launch of “It takes a world to end violence against children”, a five year evidence based Campaign was held in March 2017 leading Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Myanmar, Mongolia, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam to begin lobbying support from governments, partner agencies, and even youth/children and community members to end violence against children.

This campaign contributes to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 16.2 to “end the abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children”.

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