Dr. Hossein Assadbeigi, Head of the Social Emergency Center, SWO
Mr. Peter Evans, International Expert on Child Protection and Social Work for Children
Ladies and gentlemen,
We were all children once. This is something we all have in common. Many of us have a child or are involved in the lives of children in some way. We want children to grow up to be happy, healthy, strong and productive. Yet, millions of children worldwide from all socio-economic backgrounds, across all ages, religions and cultures suffer from violence, exploitation and abuse every day. Violence against children includes all forms of physical or mental violence, injury and abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse. Violence against children is everywhere. It occurs in homes, families, schools, care and justice systems, workplaces and communities across all contexts, including in conflicts and natural disasters. But people often turn a blind eye. It’s hidden behind closed doors. It’s invisible.
A UNICEF report released in 2014 indicated that every year, roughly 6 in 10 children between the ages of 2 and 14, or nearly a billion children worldwide, are regularly subjected to physical punishment by their caregivers. Sadly, the same report showed that about 3 in 10 adults worldwide believe that physical punishment is necessary to properly raise or educate children. No child is immune. The impact of this violence against children can be lifelong, and even passed from generation to generation. When young people experience violence, the likelihood of their becoming future victims or of acting violently themselves as adults increases.
Violence against children is fuelled by social norms that condone violence as acceptable. But it is also enabled by systems that lack adequate policies and legislation, and a strong rule of law to prevent violence, investigate and prosecute perpetrators, and provide follow-up services and treatment for victims. And it is allowed to persist when it is undocumented and unmeasured as a result of inadequate investments in data collection and poor dissemination of findings. This lack of protection systems – combined with attitudes and social norms that justify certain acts of violence against children – creates an environment in which many forms of violence against children are considered normal and therefore remain unreported.
Your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen ,to successfully break the cycle of violence in children’s lives and help them cope with the consequences, we believe there should be effective child-focused services and mechanisms for children to seek help, support and care and to report violent incidences. These services include counselling, information and referrals to other child protection services such as the police, doctors and social welfare workers, and assistance with securing temporary accommodation when necessary. Hotlines and helplines that children and their families can contact to report violence and seek information and assistance like the SWO’s Social Emergency Centre are among the most important measures in this regard. What is most important, however, to secure success of such services is to provide special trainings to the staff to whom children report incidents of violence.
UNICEF is committed to provide assistance and support to its partners to strengthen the child protection systems and mechanisms by presenting the available knowledge and expertise at International level in this area. This workshop held by the State Welfare Organization, and supported by UNICEF, is planned along the same lines.
Your excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to emphasize once again that violence against children occurs everywhere and in all contexts, most often by those closest to the child and behind closed doors, a reason why it largely remains invisible and unreported. The establishment of child protection mechanisms and systems such as helplines and hotlines with well-trained staff to whom children can report incidents of violence can be very effective both for protecting child victims of violence and for collecting data and information in this area.
Finally I would like to thank our colleagues at the State Welfare Organization as a long-time partner of UNICEF in Iran for their efforts to improve the welfare of children, and wish all participants fruitful discussions in the coming days.