by Uzair Sultan
Published on: Mar 31, 2004
Type: Opinions

Child abuse is a global phenomenon. It occurs in all countries and in all societies. It involves the physical, sexual, emotional abuse and neglect of children. It is nearly always preventable. The abuse of children is an abuse of their rights as set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Children have the right to a happy, healthy and secure childhood. Child abuse is never acceptable.

We should be more aware of the problem of child abuse. We should be safeguarding children from abuse through good practice. We should report all concerns about possible abuses. People should respond appropriately when abuse is discovered or suspected.

While certain child abuse and neglect issues are common in almost all countries, such as child physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional and psychological abuse, abandonment, and increasingly problems of street children (World Perspectives, 1998). There are also many issues which are prevalent in certain regions of the world. For instance, issues of child labour and child sexual exploitation are especially high in Asia – where there is high population density, severe economic problems, little education opportunities and a culture of strict discipline of children. Wars and government instability in countries in Eastern Europe, Africa and Latin America are also creating major problems with child soldiers, refugee children, institutionalized children and other issues specific to children of war. Central America and Asia which are susceptible to natural disasters show a tremendous increase in 1998 alone in the number of homeless children.

Child abuse and neglect prevention is still a new field, and many approaches and methods of treatment remain controversial. The lack of international data on the incidences of child abuse and methods of addressing treatment and prevention is currently motivating the International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect to advance significant effort in this area.

The largest population of children in the world live in Asia and yet the majority of these children are subject to a lack of access to proper medical health care, nutrition, education and social conditions. This reflects the socio-economic reality of the Asian developing countries. The main factors that contribute to the magnitude of the problem are poverty, illiteracy, tradition and superstition, a caste system, landlessness, lack of economic opportunities, rural-urban migration, population growth, political instability and the weak implementation of legal provisions. International Standards and Conventions have paved a way for a slow change in realization of the basic human rights in the Asian countries.

Some of the major issues facing children in Asia which require strong focus and are:

•Slavery or bonded labour
•Child soldiers (in Cambodia and Myanmar)
•Child pornography
•Exposure to violence
•Environmental hazards- extreme hot and cold conditions (working in welding, glass blowing factories, deep sea fishing, etc.) Exposure to dangerous chemicals, pollution etc.
•Child marriage (especially in South Asian countries like India, Nepal, Bangladesh)
•Child labour (Child domestic workers, factory workers, prostitution, porters)
•Female infanticide
•Trafficking of children for commercial exploitation (prostitution, begging, organ trade)
•HIV/Aids and other illnesses;

Cultural disadvantages which impact the risk of child abuse and neglect include:

•Early marriage
•Caste system in India and Nepal, lower caste population are the most disadvantaged and marginalized
•Discrimination against female children (malnutrition, do not receive medical benefits, education etc.)
•Agriculture based economies which compels families to force children from early age to work in the fields, households and also as wage labourers for money
•Ethnic Cultural Practices which allow early marriage, polygamy, drinking and also prostitution both in South Asia and South East Asia)
•Religious practices of offering female children to God as Devdasi’s in Nepal and India who perform as sex slaves
•Illiteracy, tradition and superstition which inhibits families from accessing the health, education and other basic rights
•Migration from rural areas to urban areas forces breakdown of families, landlessness, street children, trafficking of children etc.

Some suggestions to better the current situation:

•Establishment of a reliable and standardized information collection process
•Awareness raising campaigns in rural and urban areas including community leaders, teachers, police, social workers, parents and children themselves
•A need to support the extended family systems, which are under pressure from trends toward urbanization. The family systems in jeopardy promote tolerance, joint liability, partition (sharing) of properties, etc.
•Need to increase the knowledge (in detection, assessment, reporting, treatment and prevention) of the multidisciplinary professionals (police, lawyers, doctors, judges, social workers teachers’ etc.) working with child abuse and neglect. In many instances, even when the victims have been rescued they have suffered further due to the lack of proper medical facilities for treatment and rehabilitation.
•Cooperation between government and non-governmental organizations, people’s organizations, UN Agencies and other international organizations in developing concerted actions against child abuse and neglect.

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