Safe, nurturing relationships and ecological environment are needed for a child to grow. It is the duty of the caregivers-parents, teachers and institutional personnel- to be sensitive and empathetic towards each and every child, making sure that their needs are met in all possible ways. Childhood experiences, both positive and negative, have tremendous lifelong impact on the child’s emotional, psychological and physical health and it is permanent. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) have been linked to risky health behaviours, chronic health conditions, lowlife potential and early death.
Article 19 of UNCRC addresses violence against children. It emphasises that state parties must have proper laws in place to prohibit violence, but it also requires states to implement administrative, social and educational measures to protect children. All forms of violence, both physical and mental, fall under article 19.
In order for article 19 to be fulfilled, other rights must also be respected. These include, but are not limited to, the right be heard (article 12), the right for children in vulnerable situations to be specially protected (articles 20, 22 and 23), the right to health (article 24), the right to be protected from dangerous work (article 32) and the right to be free from sexual and other forms of exploitation (articles 34, 35 and 36). Article 37 (torture and ill treatment) is also particularly relevant.
Much violence is hidden within the private realm of the family, or within the confines of schools, prisons, care homes and other institutions. All responsible parties have a duty to prevent such harm, to investigate cases of violence and hold those responsible to account.
The UN study on violence against children notes that while there may be no outwardly visible sign of injury, “in all instances…physical violence has a negative impact on a child’s psychological health and development” (UNVC, 2006: 53). People who were physically abused as children may have problems with personal relationships and they may be more likely to treat their own children abusively.
Non-physical punishments considered cruel and degrading, and incompatible with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, include, for example, punishment which belittles, humiliates, denigrates, scapegoats, threatens, scares or ridicules the child. Psychological punishments that are particularly cruel or severe may be considered psychological torture.
What should we do about it?
Promote non-violent values and awareness-raising; enhance the capacity of all who work with and for children; provide recovery and social reintegration services; and ensure participation of children.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has issued a General Comment on the subject of violence against children. Among other points, the General Comment stipulates that a child rights-based approach to protection from violence means understanding children as rights-bearing individuals and not just ‘victims’.
This includes the realisation, therefore, that children’s participation in decision-making is fundamental to protection from violence. Such an environment also builds in children the spirit of Non Violence.
“If we are to reach real peace in the world, we shall have to begin with the children.” Mahatma Gandhi.
Thus spoke the father of the nation. In keeping with our ancient traditions, the Mahatma considered a peaceful society pivotal to the nation-building process, which goal can only be attained by the combined effort of the people who comprise such a society. A vital factor in preparing individuals to effect meaningful transformations is the environment in which they are raised, i.e. the influence of their parenting and teaching. After all, children do not imbibe anything without example.
A question we must ask ourselves is, “Are we setting the right behavioural examples for the young ones in our midst?” Patience, kindness, honesty and humility are traits that we should seek to inculcate in a child so that they might form the fountainhead, which kids draw from as they conduct their lives – as considerate and conscientious citizens.
This is where adults, with their varied experiences in life, are capable of moulding new generations. With proper resources and training, parents, teachers and care givers can make a significant impact upon how the children of the world perceive complex decision-making situations, including of violence, and approach them in a manner that ensures peaceful resolution.
We must look around us and recognize influences that might negatively affect a child’s mind-set. Even at a tender age, a child can grasp – however tenuously – most things that it watches or hearsand they embed themselves in the child’s mind and shape cognition.
The need of the hour is to confront the spectre of violence head-on, so that we may repudiate it. It is importantto teach children about the cause, context and consequence of violence in its various manifestations, ranging from domestic abuse to war between nations.
Children are our reincarnation and future. If the world is to be a better place, it is important that they be instructed in the value of the principles of nonviolence in order that they become active participants in shaping their own lives as well as the world’s collective future.