Violence: A Billion Lives Ripped Apart
Almost every parent’s wish is to see his or her child grow up happily, with opportunities to go to school and play without having to worry about being harmed. Violence may seem to be irrelevant to children, yet nothing could be further from the truth than this. Each year, violence invades the lives of over 1 billion children, robbing them of their dignity, rights, potential and future. Threatening their lives, health and education opportunities, violence is the biggest issue affecting children around the world today.
Rights to which children are entitledChildren need to learn discipline and how to take care of themselves from adults in order to grow. Universal Children’s Day is celebrated on 20 November each year to commemorate the UN General Assembly’s adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959 and the Convention of the Rights of the Child in 1989. The Convention outlines the rights that a child is entitled to, including rights to life, health, education and entertainment, as well as rights to family life. Children should be protected from violence and discrimination, while having the right to express their own views. Over 190 countries are parties of the Convention, making it the most recognised international treaty in history. Without a doubt, families, societies and states all share an undeniable responsibility for the well-being of children.
According to the Convention of the Rights of the Child, all children should be protected from all forms of abuse, neglect and exploitation. In the context of armed conflicts or judicial proceedings, children should receive the greatest protection. They are also entitled to freedom of expression and should enjoy social, economic, cultural and religious rights. However, instead of stepping up the efforts in administration and the distribution of resources to allow children to enjoy these deserved rights, the world has largely ignored their voices and rights. This is a worrying phenomenon, which is highlighted by the fact that the number of children experiencing violence has exceeded half the world’s child population.
Causes of Violence against Children
Every child, in every setting, in every country, is vulnerable to violence. The most susceptible and least protected people are often children fleeing conflict, children living in extreme poverty, and girls.
- Conflict weakens critical support systems and is detrimental to children’s well-being. Children affected by conflict, violence and natural disasters are especially vulnerable to risks, such as separation from families, military conscription, child labour, trafficking, physical or sexual abuse, child marriage, injury and death.
- Poverty often forces families to make difficult decisions such as whether to send a child to work or marry off a child early to support the family.
- Anyone, regardless of gender and age, can be affected by sexual and gender-based violence during conflict. But violence against women and girls is all too common in our world. Violence can take many forms: domestic abuse, trafficking, rape or harmful practices such as early marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM). They can take place anywhere but are more regular in emergency or conflict situations.