The world is a dangerous
place for an unprotected child. Studies
show that not one single country is exempt
from violence in the community –
although measuring the extent is difficult.
Poverty, crime and exploitation
are everyday facts for many of the region’s
children. In Eastern Europe and Central
Asia there are special risks: poverty
creates a fertile ground for crime and
pushes children and young people out onto
the street or into cruel or illegal work,
and many are attracted to violent and
criminal gangs. Killings and wounding
are rising steeply, especially in Eastern
Europe. Other children make their homes
on the street and live from begging or
prostitution, suffering violence from
customers or the police. Poverty leads
to exploitation, with organized crime
profiting from misery by trafficking children
for sexual exploitation or to work alongside
Even in the most structured
areas of community life there can be hidden
dangers. Children face violence in leisure
time, in clubs and even in religious settings,
such as churches. They can be made to
train too hard or diet too much for sports
performance, or face corporal punishment
or sexual abuse by trainers or carers.
Statistics on violence
in the community are difficult to find.
More data is needed to help governments
to act. The extent of trafficking and
child sexual exploitation is still being
investigated, and crime statistics only
reveal the cases that come to light. The
following figures aim to give a general
picture of the situation.
- Gang violence has risen
steeply in Eastern Europe. In the Russian
Federation, homicide rates for young people
aged 10-24 rose by over 150 per cent after
the collapse of communism. Shootings more
than doubled in Azerbaijan, Latvia and
the Russian Federation.
- In the Netherlands, in 1995, young people
aged 15-17 were four times more likely
than adults to be victims of assault.
- In Bremen (Germany), gang violence accounts
for almost half of reported violent offences.
- Of the estimated 10,000-16,000 on the
streets of St. Petersburg, half are under
13 years. Around 10 to 30 per cent of
them are particularly exposed to violence
because they are involved in criminal
activities, such as trafficking drugs
or stolen goods; about 20 per cent of
those under 18 earn a living from prostitution.
- Police routinely round up street children,
and detain and charge them with minor
- Forced labour is common in the cotton
fields of Central Asia. Inhumane conditions
are faced by child workers in Tajikistan,
Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
- The London police identified 14 children
who had been trafficked for domestic slavery
- Some Albanian and Romanian children
are brought to Western Europe to work
with criminal gangs for burglaries and
- Since 1995, over 5,000 cases of child
abuse by Catholic clergy have been reported
worldwide. Thirty priests have been convicted
of sexual abuse in France in recent years,
21 cases were recorded in the United Kingdom
between 1995 and 1999, and 13 cases between
1994 and 2001 in Germany.
- Expert reports estimate that about 20
per cent of young people involved in sport
are at risk from abuse, and about 10 per
cent are actual victims.
What is being done?
such as the Convention on the Rights of
the Child and the European Convention
on Human Rights, set out ways to protect
children – including their right
to life and to family life.
Conventions by the International
Labour Organization (ILO) aim to stamp
out cruel forms of child labour such as
sale and trafficking, prostitution, and
working in the army, in dangerous industries
or forced labour.
The Council of Europe’s
most recent convention aims to stop trafficking.
Its Cybercrime Convention gives police
means to work cross-border to stop child
The United Kingdom has
opened the first unit to protect children
in sport, and the Football Association
has set up an Ethics Strategy Group to
tackle the problem.
How do we go forward?
- Governments must put
into practice the measures they have agreed
to in the various international treaties.
- Charges such as vagrancy,
prostitution and loitering should be decriminalized
- Sexual exploitation
and possession of child pornography must
- Governments must bring
in extraterritoriality principles, allowing
their nationals to be prosecuted for sex
crimes committed abroad.
- Police should be trained
to consider and respect children’s
rights, and handle their cases with particular
- Anyone who works with
children should be checked beforehand
to ensure they have no history of criminal
- Measures against child
labour should be designed in a way that
takes into account all factors and that
prioritizes policies to end poverty.
- Action against trafficking
– both national and international
– should take into account children’s
- Rich countries should
immediately increase international aid
to reduce poverty.
WHO, World Report on
Violence and Health, Geneva, 2002.
Ashagrie, K., Statistics on Working Children
and Hazardous Child Labour in Brief, ILO,
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15 to 30 July 2004, 19 to 29 September
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Rights in Competitive Sport, Routledge,
London, 2005, pp. 92-101.
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Vatican and Clergy Sexual Abuse, http://www.bishopswatch.org