Universal Children's Day: Fighting Violence against Children

19/11/2011 - Tomorrow is the 22nd annual Universal Children’s Day. This year, protecting the rights of the child by fighting violence against youngsters everywhere is the day of observance's prominent theme.

Tomorrow is Universal Children’s Day. November twentieth marks the 22nd anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has joined up with the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children to launch a new project protecting children from violence. The three-year campaign will operate in more than 30 countries.

The World Day of Prayer and Action for Children is a movement promoting the role religious communities in child protection, including such measures as birth registration, positive parenting and action against child marriage.

In Swaziland, the Deputy Prime Minister took a stand against child abuse.

"We would like to issue a warning against all perpetrators of violence and we are on a drive to clean all the country’s schools, churches and homes to fight this type of violence," said he said.

Studies a few years ago conducted by UNICEF and the US Centers for Disease Control found that one-in-three Swazi girls had experienced sexual violence, one-in-four had experienced physical violence and about 30 per cent has suffered emotional abuse. According to a briefing by Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, another study (2005) found that children had experienced corporal punishment at home and school, with and without an implement. More children reported being hit at school within a two-week period—28 per cent by hand and 59 per cent with an implement such as a stick, cane, sjambok (leather whip) or blackboard eraser.

“Violence does not discriminate,” said Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF. “It cuts across race, religion, class, and culture.”

One of the most basic means of protecting children is positive parenting that does not resort to violence. Corporal punishment has been debated in both wealthy and developing countries alike. The CRC protects children from any “torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child raised the issue in its fourth session in 1993. By its seventh session in November of 1994, the Committee gave special attention to the child’s right to “physical integrity,” noting that corporal punishment was incompatible with the CRC. Still, the corporal punishment of children remains legal in the domestic, educational and criminal justice spheres of several countries.

“Let it begin with a prayer and end in action,” said Mr. Lake.

Minister for International Cooperation and head of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Bev Oda, also issued a statement in light of the occasion. “Canada's child-focused programming concentrates on the areas that achieve the greatest results—education, health, child protection, and human rights,” she said.

“Our efforts help the world's children and youth grow into healthy, educated and productive adults, paving the way for a brighter future for all of us.”