No child should suffer violence, abuse or exploitation. Children have the same right to protection and care as adults. As fully-fledged rights holders, this is non-negotiable. Today, the International Day for the Protection of Children, is the perfect time to reaffirm this.
Violence against children occurs in various settings, such as schools, at home and residential institutions. It assumes forms including corporal punishment, sexual exploitation and trafficking, whilst also manifesting itself in less identifiable ways, such as bullying or neglect. Safeguarding children from this relies upon effective, integrated and robust child protection systems. However, as FRA’s mapping of national child protection strategies found, only 13 Member States had comprehensive national child protection policies or strategies.
When national laws and policies are so fragmented, they fail to protect children effectively, especially those at higher risk of abuse and exploitation. Vulnerable groups include victims of trafficking, children with disabilities, unaccompanied children, children living in institutions, children living in deprived conditions, and children in contact with the law. FRA has produced research directly addressing the challenges faced by some of these groups:
Despite Member State efforts, violence against children remains largely undetected and under-reported. Ten principles for child protection, developed by the European Commission, provide a good basis to work from. Effective child protection requires interagency coordination, an integrated approach and cooperation between various actors.
Efforts should be intensified to improve monitoring and reporting mechanisms and to facilitate access to child-sensitive complaint and reporting procedures for children in and outside of state care.
Prevention is key. Priority should be given to developing integrated child protection policies and implementing measures that avert violence. These include:
All in all, a strong message needs to be delivered that violence against children must stop. It harms them. It damages society. It jeopardises their future. It is the obligation of everybody to ensure this message becomes a reality.