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Millions of children face violence and abuse, says Secretary-General’s Special Representative

GENEVA – Despite existing international standards, violence and abuse continue to be a harsh reality for millions of children around the world, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, Marta Santos Pais, said Friday in a message delivered on the anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and in support of a proposed World Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Violence against Children.*

“Violence against children remains hidden and socially accepted, and it has a serious and lifelong impact on the lives of children, compromising their physical and emotional health, development and education,” Santos Pais said.

“Sexual violence is associated with stigma and concealed suffering; it leads to unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and a high risk of exposure to HIV infection for both boys and girls. Although an egregious violation of children’s rights, sexual violence and abuse remain difficult to survey as a result of their sensitive nature. Available data is scant and fragmented, national studies are scarce and reporting remains weak and difficult,” she said

The Special Representative noted that there are nevertheless positive developments to build upon, such as significant legal reforms introduced in various countries to prohibit all forms of violence against children. “At present, twenty nine countries have a comprehensive and explicit legal ban on all forms of violence against children,” she said. “Several countries have reinforced their legislation to address specific forms of violence and to protect children from ill treatment and abuse in schools, from child trafficking and sexual exploitation, as well as harmful practices, including female genital mutilation and early and forced marriage.”

Recognizing the urgency of this cause, the Special Representative is committed to pursue three critical goals in the framework of her mandate: the development in each State of a national comprehensive strategy to prevent and respond to violence; the introduction of a legal ban on all forms of violence against children; and the promotion of a national data collection system and research agenda.

The initiative for adopting 19 November as a World Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Violence against Children is commemorated in synergy with the international day for the Rights of the Child and the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. “This anniversary reminds us that much more need to be done and prevention is crucial in protecting children from violence in all its forms,” the Special Representative said.

* An initiative of the Women’s World Summit Foundation, an NGO coalition of women and children organizations.

ENDS

For more information, please contact: Imma Guerras Delgado in Geneva (tel. +41.22.9179441 / e-mail: iguerras-delgado@ohchr.org); or Joost Kooijmans in New York (jkooijmans@unicef.org)