The United Nations Study on Violence against Children – revisited

Although this report has been around for nearly 4 years, it is not up to the UN on its own to implement any recommendations. It is also up to every citizen to make themselves aware of the issues surrounding violence towards children and young people and to take action to remedy mistakes of the past. Those of you who are involved with schools in any way, should ask if there is code of conduct, or a ‘discipline ‘ book or a suggestions box where students can anonymously, if necessary, comment on their treatment as part of their learning. This is just the start…


The United Nations Study on Violence against Children

In October 2006, the Independent Expert for the Secretary-General Study on Violence against Children, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro of Brazil , presented his final report to the UN General Assembly. The Study analyses violence against children in five settings: the home and family; schools and educational settings; care and justice institutions; the work-place; and the community. The Study contains 12 over-arching recommendations and a number of setting specific recommendations that represent a comprehensive framework for follow-up action.

The Study process also resulted in a more detailed World Report on Violence against Children and in child friendly publications. The Study material not available in this page can be found at:

On 19 October 2007, the Independent Expert presented his progress report on the implementation of the Study recommendations to the General-Assembly. Click here to read his statement.

GA resolution A/RES/62/141 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.


The study was guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child which emphasizes children’s rights to physical and personal integrity, and outlines States parties obligations to protect them from “all forms of physical or mental violence”, including sexual and other forms of exploitation, abduction, armed conflict, and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. It also obliges the State to enact preventive measures and ensure that all child victims of violence receive the support and assistance they require.

The UN General Assembly called for the study in 2001 acting on the recommendation of the Committee on the Rights of the Child . In overseeing the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Committee held two days of general discussion on the issue of violence against children within the family and in school (2001) and state violence against children (2000). The request for an international study on the question of violence against children was an outcome of these days of discussion.

The Study process was supported jointly by OHCHR, UNICEF and WHO.

And from the UNICEF site

Violence is found in schools, institutions (such as orphanages and other residential care), on the streets, in the workplace and in prisons. Children experience violence at home, within their family and from other children. A small proportion of violence against children leads to death, but most often the violence does not even leave visible marks. Yet it is one of the most serious problems affecting children today.

Much violence is hidden. Children may not feel able to report acts of violence for fear of retribution from their abuser. Both child and abuser may see nothing unusual or wrong in the child being subjected to violence. They may not consider an act of violence actually to be violence at all, perhaps viewing it as justifiable and necessary punishment. The child victim may feel ashamed or guilty, believing that the violence was deserved.  This often leads the child to be unwilling to speak about it.

Violence pervades the societies within which children grow up. They see it in the media.  It is part of the economic, cultural and societal norms that make up the child’s environment. It has its roots in issues such as the power relations associated with gender, exclusion, absence of a primary care giver and societal norms that are not protective or respectful of children. Other factors include drugs, availability of firearms, alcohol abuse, unemployment, crime, impunity and cultures of silence. 

Violence can have severe implications for children’s development. In the most severe cases, it can lead to death or injury. However, it can also affect children’s health, their ability to learn or even their willingness to go to school at all. It can lead children to run away from home, exposing them to further risks. Violence also destroys children’s self-confidence and can undermine their ability to be good parents in the future. Children subjected to violence have a heightened risk of depression and suicide in later life.

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 40 million children below the age of 15 suffer from abuse and neglect, and require health and social care.
  • A survey in Egypt showed 37 per cent of children reporting being beaten or tied up by their parents, and 26 per cent reporting injuries such as fractures, loss of consciousness or permanent disability as a result of this.
  • Some 36 per cent of Indian mothers told interviewers in a survey that they had hit their children with an object of some sort within the last six months. Ten per cent said they had kicked their child; 29 per cent had pulled their child’s hair;  28 per cent had hit the child with their knuckles; and three per cent said they had punished their child by putting hot peppers in their mouth.
  • A 1995 survey in the United States showed that five per cent of parents asked admitted to disciplining their children through one or more of the following: hitting the child with an object; kicking the child; beating the child; and threatening the child with a knife or gun.
  • Recent South African police statistics show 21,000 cases of child rape or assault reported, against children as young as nine months old. Only an estimated 1 in 36 cases of rape is reported.

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