Violence Against Children – The Critical Issue for Global Development

Violence against children (VAC) has many facets from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse to neglect and deprivation. More than half of the world’s children have experienced some form of violence. Having a wide range of perpetrators, child abuse occurs in different settings be it home, school, community, or over the internet. VAC is a heartbreaking reality and one of the biggest issues affecting families and societies worldwide. Moreover, according to UN estimates, tens of thousands of children and adolescents are victims of homicide. Thus, VAC is not only a global human rights problem but a vital public health concern too.

According to the Council of Europe, corporal punishment is the most widely spread form of violence against children. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child defines corporal punishment as “any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light.” International law clearly establishes every child’s right to be protected against violence. This right is underpinned by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as the SDGs. However, the scale of violence persists with many hidden and underreported cases.

Risk Factors and Drivers of VAC

A growing body of research has been focusing on the risk factors and drivers of the VAC. The patterns and levels of violence may vary between the age and sex of individual children, but common contributors to the probability of VAC persist. These include but are not limited to the below:

  • Macro Contexts such as emergency and humanitarian situations including armed conflicts, natural disasters, criminal gang formation, etc.
  • Weak legal frameworks, justice sector, and institutional capacity within a given country
  • Lack of societal awareness, Existence of dogmatized social norms that support inequality and discrimination; High levels of violence across the community; High levels of drug and alcohol use among the community
  • Poor economic conditions of the households, food insecurity, destitution, and gender inequality inside the families
  • Parental Stress and Lack of social and service support

Consequences of Violence Towards Children

Recent studies have shown that violence and neglect can psychosocially affect the development of a child’s brain. The impact of VAC is frequently lifelong from adverse health, social, and economic consequences to mental and physical health conditions and to disabilities from physical injury. VAC is oftentimes traumatic, affecting a child’s emotional development, social functioning, and academic performance. These experiences frequently lead to problematic behavior as well.

How does VAC impact sustainable development?

VAC directly affects the social and economic development of nations. Estimated global costs of VAC stand at US 7 trillion. Increased public expenditure, child welfare, special education, medical support, etc. are some of the costs that make up the list. Moreover, the victims of VAC struggle to participate in public life and realize their full potential.

To learn more about VAC and how to address it, check out Training Program on Preventing and Addressing Violence Against Children.

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