Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Magnitude of violence against children

An analysis of nationally representative survey data on the prevalence of violence against children in 96 countries estimates that 1 billion children globally – over half of all children aged 2–17 years – have experienced emotional, physical or sexual  violence in the past year (2) . 
Despite its high prevalence, violence against children is often hidden, unseen or under-reported. Its hidden nature is well documented (3) – for example, a meta-analysis of global data finds self-reported child sexual abuse 30 times higher and physical abuse 75 times higher than official reports would suggest (4, 5) .
Girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence. For example, the lifetime prevalence of childhood sexual abuse is 18% for girls, compared to 8% for boys (4) . Perpetrators of sexual violence against girls are predominantly males. Girls are also more likely to experience intimate partner violence (sexual and/or physical); rape by acquaintances or strangers; child or early/forced marriage; trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation and child labour, and genital mutilation/cutting. Such violence occurs in many settings, including those where girls should be safe and nurtured — at home; travelling to, from and within school; in their communities; and in situations of humanitarian emergency, displacement, or post-conflict settings.
Boys are more likely to be both victims and perpetrators of homicide, which commonly involves weapons such as firearms and knives (7) . 

Homicide is among the top five causes of death in adolescents, with boys comprising over 80% of victims and perpetrators. In addition, for every homicide there are hundreds of predominantly male victims of youth violence who sustain injuries as a result. Boys are also more likely to be the victims and perpetrators in fights and assaults (7) .

Given the high rates at which girls and boys experience violence, this paints an alarming picture of the extent to which children live with the impact of violence, in the absence of support or services. In many countries, the true magnitude of the problem is vastly underestimated, partly because prevalence estimates come from administrative data used by health or justice systems and not from national survey data, and partly because of the widespread beliefs that lead people – including children – to see violence as a norm rather than a problem demanding attention. Furthermore, girls and boys who do report such violence are often stigmatized, or not believed, and no action is taken. Though violence may be hidden, its consequences eventually surface (8) , creating a pervasive, enduring and costly toll for children and adults, communities and nations.

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