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Violence against Children

Children’s rights are often abused.  These two young boys in New Delhi, India. © UN photo/ Jean Pierre LaffontThe United Nations General Assembly in November 2007 established the post of Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence against children.

The resolution encourages the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) to cooperate with and support the Special Representative.

Much of the violence against children, including physical violence, psychological violence, discrimination, neglect and maltreatment, remains hidden and is often socially approved. Although the consequences may vary according to the nature and severity of the violence inflicted, the short- and long-term repercussions for children are very often grave and damaging. The physical, emotional and psychological scars of violence can have severe implications for a child's development, health and ability to learn.

These are some of the conclusions of the United Nations Secretary-General's Study on Violence against Children presented to the General Assembly in 2006. The study provided for the first time a comprehensive global view of the range and scale of violence against children. Independent Expert Professor Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro led the Study, in collaboration with OHCHR, UNICEF, and WHO. Since 2001, when the Secretary-General was requested by the General Assembly to conduct an in-depth study on the question of violence against children, OHCHR, along with other UN agencies, has made an advocacy effort to bring this issue to the general public's attention .

The Study, which combines human rights, public health and child protection perspectives, focuses on five ‘settings' where violence occurs: the home and family, schools and educational settings, institutions (care and judicial), the workplace, and the community.

Extreme violence against children may hit the headlines but the Study concludes that for many children violence is routine, a part of their daily reality.

"Violence against children is a violation of their human rights, a disturbing reality of our societies,” says Louise Arbour, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. “It can never be justified whether for disciplinary reasons or cultural tradition. No such thing as a ‘reasonable' level of violence is acceptable . Legalized violence against children in one context risks tolerance of violence against children generally.”

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