These issues are reviewed in a new UNICEF report, “Progress for Children: A Report Card on Child Protection,” released by UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman in Tokyo today.
The report gathers together for the first time data on a range of issues that impact on children, including sexual abuse and trafficking, child marriage, physical punishment of children, child labour, birth registration, the harmful traditional practice of female genital cutting, and attitudes toward violence against women inside marriage.
Some abuses – such as sexual exploitation and trafficking – are usually committed in conditions of secrecy and illegality, which makes collection of accurate data challenging.
Where data are available, some progress is evident. For example, the data shows that in Bangladesh, Guinea and Nepal – three countries where child marriage is prevalent – the median age of marriage is rising, although it is still below 18 years of age. The report also identifies a slow decline in female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in countries where such abuse is common.
Included in the report’s findings are:
- More than half the children in detention worldwide have not been tried or sentenced.
- In some parts of the world, the births of two out of three children were not registered in 2007. In Somalia and Liberia less than 5 per cent of births are registered. Birth registration is an important element in building a protective environment for children for a range of reasons, including that without a birth certificate they are more vulnerable to sexual exploitation, trafficking and illegal adoption.
- More than 150 million children between 5 and 14 years of age are engaged in child labour. Child labour is often both a result and a source of poverty. It can compromise a child’s education and perpetuate the poverty that pushed them into the workforce.
- More than half of women and girls in developing countries think that wife-beating is acceptable and, younger women are as likely to justify wife-beating as older women. In most regions, neglecting the children is the most commonly cited justification for wife-beating.
The report also offers a strategy to improve child protection, identifying five areas of activity that are needed to improve protective environments for children:
1) improving child protection systems;
2) promoting social change;
3) enhancing protection in emergencies;
4) strengthening partnerships for greater impact; and
5) collecting reliable data and using such data to achieve concrete results for children.