Saturday, October 14, 2006

Abuse a fact of life for young in RI: UN

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Children here and overseas are frequently physically and emotionally abused at home and at school with many people around the world thinking the abuse is "normal", a UN study revealed on Thursday.

The report, issued by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's office, reveals that for many children violence is routine, unreported and part of their daily reality. Indonesia is one of 77 countries that still regards corporal and other violent punishments acceptable as legal disciplinary measures, it said.

For Indonesia studies were conducted in 2002, 2003 and this year by the UN body for children, Unicef, and Indonesia's State Ministry for Women's Empowerment.

In a statement sent to The Jakarta Post, the United Nations said the report was "the first single document that provides a comprehensive global view of the range and scale of violence against children". Forms of violence range from sexual abuse in the home to corporal and other humiliating punishments at school.

In Indonesia, the UN's 2002 survey, which involved 125 children and took place over six months, revealed that two-thirds of the boys and about a third of girls had been physically beaten. The survey also found that more than a quarter of the girls surveyed had been raped.

In a much broader survey in 2003 in which about 1,700 children participated, the vast majority reported being slapped, punched, or having an object thrown at them.

This year, UN studies in three provinces showed excessive physical and emotional violence against students in schools.

In Central Java, 80 percent of teachers admitted to have punished children by yelling or shouting at them in front of their classmates or peers. Some 55 percent admitted to ordering students to stand in front of the class.

In South Sulawesi, 90 percent of the teachers said they had told students to stand in front of the class, followed by 73 percent yelling at students and 54 percent ordering them to clean the toilets.

In North Sumatra, more than 90 percent of teachers admitted to order their students to stand in front of the class and 80 percent yelled at students.

"Violence against children is a violation of their human rights, a disturbing reality of our societies," said Louis Arbour, UN high commissioner for human rights in a statement. "It can never be justified, whether for disciplinary reasons or cultural traditions. No such thing as a reasonable level of violence is acceptable."

Unicef executive director Ann M. Veneman said violence had a lasting effect on children and their families and also on communities and nations.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the expert who led the study, said the best way to deal with violence against children was to nip it in the bud.

"Everyone has a role to play in this, but states must take the primary responsibility. That means prohibiting all kinds of violence against children ... and investing in prevention programs to address the underlying causes," he said.

The report cited World Health Organization data, which estimates that in 2002 some 150 million girls and 73 million boys were subjected to forced sexual intercourse and other forms of molestation, while 53,000 were killed.

International Labor Organization data shows that in 2004 there were 218 million child laborers worldwide, 126 million in hazardous work. WHO estimates up to 140 million women and girls have undergone genital mutilation.

The report also calls for the appointment of a UN special representative on violence against children, "to act as a high profile global advocate" to promote prevention and elimination of violence against the young.




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