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Indigenous & Latina Women & Children's Human Rights News from the Americas 


 

 

Indigenous & Latina Women & Children's Human Rights News from the Americas 


 

 

Indigenous & Latina Women & Children's Human Rights News from the Americas 


 

 
 
UNICEF Regional Office for Latin America & the Caribbean
.
No Child Deserves Maltreatment
© 1999 - UNICEF
From: http://www.unicef.org/lac/ingles/urgente/deten3.htm#1

 

Maltreatment of children manifests itself in various forms, ranging from abuse and sexual exploitation, child labour and abandonment of children, physical or psychological violence, lack of education, inadequate or non-existent health services, as well as poverty and social injustice that particularly affect the most vulnerable members of society. To a worrying extent, this means girls.

The phenomenon of violence is generally most prevalent within the intimate confines of the family unit. Several studies have shown that 70% of violent acts against women take place in the home, and that these are related to the educational level of the victim. The fact that children bear witness to violence between their parents causes almost as much damage to them as maltreatment. Frequently, acts of aggression within the family trickle down to children, making them the final and defenseless link in a chain of violence.

On the threshold of the twenty-first century, hundreds of children are still victims of inhuman treatment that violates their rights. Some countries report worrying rates of child maltreatment spanning from verbal abuse, beatings and making fun of children as a form of punishment. During its first year in office, the Commissioner for Women and Families in Guayaquil, Ecuador, received 6101 complaints of violence, of which 96% were filed by women. Of these, 471 corresponded to minors below the age of 17. In El Salvador, figures cited by the National General Attorney’s Office show an average of two daily cases of maltreatment and physical violence requiring hospital care. Even so, many cases of maltreatment go unreported.

In Argentina, the Child Maltreatment Committee reports that in 50% of all cases, the aggressor lives with the child, and in 75% of cases, the abuser is a close relative. The Secretariat for Gender Affairs in Bolivia estimates that 100,000 acts of violence against women occur every year in that country, however, only one in five of these women report the incident.

According to information compiled by the Inter-Agency Coordinating Committee for follow-up to the World Summit for Children in the Americas (ICC), reporting of violent acts against women and girls in Jamaica and Dominica has increased significantly. In Dominica, the figure rose from 147 reported cases in 1990 to 556 in 1997; similarly, in Jamaica, 135 cases were recorded in 1990 versus 1,350 cases in 1997.

"States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child."

(Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 19)

Close to 15 million children have no time for play; they go to work

Child labour condemns girls to poverty and illiteracy. According to estimates from the International Labour Organization (ILO), there are close to 15 million child workers under the age of 15 in Latin America and the Caribbean. If one added the amount of young workers between the age of 15 and 17; it is likely that the figure would be twice as high. In 1996, ILO established that more than half of all working children in the world are girls, and that the vast majority of these perform "invisible" tasks that are not valued, let alone accounted for in official statistics.

Child labour makes inequalities among children deeper. A large number of children work in rubbish dumps, in sugar cane fields, or as domestic servants. These children are denied the possibility of enjoying their childhood, simply because the work they are forced to perform turns them into adults long before their time.

Throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, children have been used to help in solving many of their families’ economic problems. To mention but a few cases, around 10% of the labour force in Haiti is made up of children aged between 5 and 9. Close to 120,000 children work as unpaid domestic servants, known as restaveks, and 85% of them are girls. Most of them do not attend school or receive any form of education. Some of these girls are no more than 5 or 6 years old. In 1994, a study of 10-year-old girl workers demonstrated that 20% were assigned to domestic tasks and 70% to informal activities in the commercial sector. According to a 1996 national survey on socio-economic characteristics in Chile (CASEN), there were approximately 49,500 child workers aged between 6 and 14 in that country. According to the same survey, 147,000 young people between the age of 15 and 18 perform some type of labour activity. In Paraguay, the Committee on the Rights of the Child informed that close to 256,000 children in that country who are forced to work in urban and rural areas, factories, small family businesses, and in agricultural activities.

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL) reports that in urban areas in Latin America, only 25% of adolescents between the age of 13 and 17 who work also go to school; in rural areas, the percentage is as low as 15%. According to a 1998 household survey carried out by the National Institute of Statistics and Information in Peru, there were around 1,500,000 child workers in that country. It has been found that in Brazil, among children and adolescents between the ages of 10 and 17 years, those with the highest activity rate have a lower level of education. In Ecuador, 49% of girls working in urban areas and 85% of girls working in rural areas receive no pay for their work.