General Comment No. 7

Indicator Set 8: Violence against Young Children

Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of children are subjected to violence all over the world. Often, those who commit these acts of violence go unpunished. Children can be subjected to violence by adults and also by other children. Peer violence among children takes various forms, including:

  • Bullying
  • Physical attacks
  • Name-calling
  • Social exclusion

Such violence is prevalent in many countries. It continues partly because children are often reluctant to speak out for fear of punishment. Also, children’s complaints are often not taken seriously. The relative powerlessness and vulnerability of young children is recognised many times in General Comment No. 7. The Convention on the Rights of the Child also emphasises States parties' obligations to protect children from all acts of violence (article 19). All forms of corporal punishment are threats to a child’s physical and/or emotional integrity. Both the CRC (article 18.1) and GC7 (para 18) recognise the primary role of parents and caregivers to protect young children from violence. These documents require States parties to take measures to prevent and/or criminalize violence and/or degrading punishment or treatment in two important ways:

  • Through enacting and enforcing effective laws and administrative measures (CRC article 19)
  • Through providing information or training and support to parents and caregivers on alternative, non-degrading or non-harmful, positive disciplinary measures (CRC article 18.2)

It is particularly important to note the issue of violence towards young children extends to professional fields such as education and law enforcement systems. For example, article 28.2 of the CRC obliges the State party to ensure appropriate discipline in schools and other educational environments. Effective first steps in protecting children against violence of all kinds could include:

  • Helplines that are accessible to all children
  • Ombudspeople to represent children and protect their interests in courts or other settings
  • Data collection systems are also central to the implementation of this right. These techniques of data collection should be accompanied by active measures to:
    • Promote alternative forms of punishment, reprimand or control
    • Protect and rehabilitate children who are victims of violence
    • Prosecute parents, caregivers and professionals who violate the rights of young children through abusive or violent disciplinary methods

Note that once the mechanisms to report violence against children are improved, the rate of reporting may increase. However, this increase in reporting does not necessarily indicate an increase in the actual incidence of violence. This indicator also includes obligations under article 39 of the CRC that States parties support the physical and/or psychological recovery of young children affected by violence or abuse. Although it is recognised that certain aspects of violence are subjective, this indicator seeks to include as many forms of abusive, disempowering or degrading behaviours as possible. These range from the verbal (such as humiliation and shaming) to the physical (ranging from shaking babies to injurious beating, female circumcision and female infanticide). Violence consists of more than actions; overlooking a problem is also a form of violence. While all children could be subjected to both kinds of violence, factors such as gender increase violent incidents for some children. For example, female children may be subjected to negligence and a lesser quality of care and nurturance. This inequity highlights the importance of disaggregating data during data analysis.

Key Question: With respect to articles 18.1, 18.2, 19, 28.2 and 39 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, what measures are in place to support parents and other caregivers in preventing violence or abuse towards young children, to hold perpetrators accountable, to facilitate the recovery of affected young children, and to ensure adequate recording of the prevalence of violence or abuse and the impact on prevalence of any preventive measures?