3 May 2010
Violations often take place in settings where children ought to feel safe such as the family home or in schools, or in situations where children are most vulnerable such as detention facilities, during displacement or in situations of armed conflict.
These facts were recalled as the UN Human Rights Council held its annual full-day meeting on the rights of the child recently. This year the meeting focussed on the theme of protecting boys and girls from sexual violence.
Speaking to the issue Bacre Ndiaye, Director of the Human Rights Council and Special Procedures Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said
"Children are physically hurt and mentally scarred in the most terrible way, with lifelong consequences, often by those in whom they place the most trust, such as family, teachers, police and humanitarian workers, among others"
The meeting also noted that that due to the sensitive nature of sexual violence, obtaining accurate data and research on sexual violence against children remain a challenge across regions. A deafening silence surrounds the issue as victims are often ashamed to come forward and seek justice.
"Children are at times blamed for what has happened, coerced to keep it a secret and often stigmatized and marginalised by their families and communities", said Marta Santos, UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence against Children.
One of the conclusions of the meeting was that violence against children is however preventable and that investing efforts and resources in prevention is the most effective means to reduce violence against children.
It was pointed out that while most States have signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child there is not have a common definition of sexual violence against children. Nor have States universally ratified a number of pertinent international and regional instruments and some national laws have not clearly defined nor criminalized all forms of sexual exploitation of children.
States were also urged to put in place investigative procedures and prosecution methods that are child-sensitive in order to avoid re-victimization of children. The need for safe and easy access to child sensitive counselling, complaint and reporting mechanisms was also highlighted as was the training of children in order to enable them to identify risk situations.
In light of the debate, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution urging all States to ensure accountability and seek to end impunity of perpetrators of sexual violence and abuse against children.