“Violence” is understood to mean “all forms of physical or mental agression, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse” (Convention on the Rights of the Child, 2011).
In 1997, WHO identified violence as a public health problem, and its prevention as a global priority. The Violence in the World is both common and widespread– and no society is without some level of violence against its youngest members.
Violence against children in all its forms, from the slap of a parent to the unwanted sexual advances, is harmful, morally indefensible, and a violation of every child’s fundamental human rights.
A key reason why violence against children remains hidden is the reluctance of many victims to disclose their abuse, seek help to cope with the experience, or take action to protect themselves from further victimization.
- Worldwide, around 1.1 billion caregivers, or slightly more than 1 in 4, admit to believing in the necessity of physical punishment as a form of discipline.
- Only 9% of children under age 5 live in countries where corporal punishment at home is fully prohibited, leaving around 607 MILLION young children without full legal protection.
- NEARLY HALF of one-year-old children in 29 countries experience shouting, yelling, or screaming as a form of discipline; 3 IN 10 are subjected to spanking.
- Every 7 minutes a teenager dies from violent death in the world.
The statistics reveal that children experience violence across all stages of childhood, in diverse settings, and often at the hands of the trusted individuals with whom they interact on a daily basis. The five countries with the highest homicide rates among adolescents aged 10 to 19, as of 2015, are all located in South America: the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Honduras, Colombia, El Salvador, and Brazil. The top five most deadly places for adolescent boys span across two regions, Asia and America, and the following countries: the Syrian Arab Republic, Iraq, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Colombia, and El Salvador. For girls, the risk is highest in the Syrian Arab Republic, followed by Iraq, Afghanistan, Honduras, and South Sudan. To date, only 60 countries have adopted legislation that fully prohibits the use of corporal punishment at home, leaving more than 600 million children under age 5 without full legal protection. This lack of legal prohibitions is a clear sign that violent discipline remains a largely unacknowledged form of violence against children.
Countries that Prohibit all Corporal Punishment of Children, Including at Home:
2020 - Japan, Seychelles
2019 - Georgia, South Africa, France, Republic of Kosovo
2018 - Nepal
2017 - Lithuania
2016 - Mongolia, Montenegro, Paraguay, Slovenia
2015 - Benin, Ireland, Peru
2014 - Andorra, Estonia, Nicaragua, San Marino, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Malta
2013 - Cabo verde, Honduras, North Macedonia
2011 - South Sudan
2010 - Albania, Congo, Kenya, Tunisia, Poland
2008 - Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Republic of Moldova, Costa Rica
2007 - Togo, Spain, Venezuela, Uruguay, Portugal, New Zeland, Netherlands
2006 - Greece
2005 - Hungary
2004 - Romania, Ukraine
2003 - Iceland
2002 - Turkmenistan
2000 - Germany, Israel,Bulgaria
1999 - Croatia
1997 - Denmark
1994 - Cyprus
1989 - Austria
1987 - Norway
1983 - Finland
1979 - Sweden
In 31 countries, corporal punishment – whipping, flogging, caning – is still lawful under state, traditional, and/or religious law as a sentence for crimes committed by juveniles. These countries are Afghanistan, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Colombia, Dominica, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kiribati, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Somalia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, State of Palestine, Tonga, Tuvalu, United Arab Emirates, Tanzania, Vanuatu, and Yemen.
In 16 countries, corporal punishment is not fully prohibited in any setting, including as a sentence for a crime. They are Barbados, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Dominica, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Somalia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, State of Palestine, Tuvalu, and Tanzania.
On the other hand, while schools are entrusted with providing a safe environment for children to learn and thrive, laws prohibiting violence in educational settings remain scarce. Some 732 million school-age children, half the global population aged 6 to 17, live in countries where they are not legally protected from corporal punishment at school.
Yet violence against children is often rationalized as necessary or inevitable. It may be tacitly accepted due to the familiarity of children with the perpetrators or minimized as inconsequential. The memory or reporting of violence may be buried due to shame or fear of reprisal. Impunity of perpetrators and prolonged exposure to violence may leave victims believing it is normal. In such ways, violence is masked, making it difficult to prevent and end. Ensuring that violence in all its forms is documented through solid data is a first step towards its elimination.
Can we really end child violence in the world?
All children have the right to be protected from violence inflicted on them by anyone in their lives – whether parents, teachers, friends, romantic partners, or strangers-. All forms of violence experienced by children, regardless of the nature or severity of the act, are harmful. It is important to remember that protection consists not only in taking care of children who are victims of violence but also in preventing any act of violence against each one of them.
Preventing violence against children implies giving them the opportunity to know and have all their rights fulfilled and promoting a culture of children's rights to fight against psychosocial ideas, which lead to harmful behavior and child abuse.
The prevention of violence against children is the responsibility of all of us!