Regional Consultation for the UN Study on Violence Against Children
. 5 - 7 July 2005 Ljubljana, Slovenia  
Europe and Central Asia






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Communication kit

A Communication Kit has been designed by UNICEF and the Council of Europe for the Regional Consultation on Violence Against Children in Europe and Central Asia, 5-7 July, Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Violence in Residential Facilities
Violence in the Community
Violence in Schools
Violence in the Home and Family

Who we are
Changing attitudes
About the UN Study
What you can do


Child's drawing, UNICEF Moldova
Ion Sestacovschi, 9 years old

Violence in the Home and Family

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child calls the family “the natural environment for growth and well-being”, but studies throughout Europe and Central Asia paint a darker picture. Quite simply, for many children home is not a haven but a hell – the place where they face the most violence, yet the place where it is the least visible.

Society still hesitates to act against violence within families. Children are often considered the ‘“property’ of parents, rather than people with their own rights to protection. Violent and humiliating punishment by parents and close carers remains lawful and very common in the majority of Europe and Central Asia countries. Harmful traditional practices such as female genital circumcision and honour killings are left unchallenged because of ignorance or a fear of offending.

Every day, many children across Europe are hit, kicked, threatened, ridiculed or isolated. If an adult were subject to any of these actions it would be a criminal assault in any European country.

The facts

These examples aim to give a general picture for Europe and Central Asia. Facts and figures about violence against children are always difficult to find. Many children are afraid to speak out, and statistics can be influenced by the questions researchers ask or the size or nature of the group they choose. Some issues – such as sexual abuse and some harmful traditional practices – are only just being documented: the vast majority of cases do not come to official notice.

Violence in the family

- According to UNICEF, two children die every week in the United Kingdom and Germany from maltreatment and three die every week in France.

- The risk of homicide is about three times greater for children under the age of one than for those aged 1-4. That age group, in turn, faces double the risk of those aged 5-14.

- A 2003 study of students in Croatia showed that 93 per cent had experienced violence.

- Most parents in most countries still believe it is acceptable to smack or slap a child.

- About 10 to 30 per cent of children in many States are beaten severely with belts, sticks or other objects: in some cases the abuse of children amounts to torture.

- Over half the Moldovan children interviewed for one study reported being harmed or injured.

- Three quarters of a sample of British mothers in the mid-1990s admitted to ‘smacking’ their baby before the age of one.

Sexual abuse

- The most likely victims are girls, pre-teens or early teens and children with disabilities;

- Studies carried out in 14 European countries put the rate of sexual abuse both within and outside the family at 9 per cent: 33 per cent for girls and 3 to 15 per cent for boys;

- In 2000, a Romanian study showed that 9.1 per cent of children questioned said they had been abused and 1.1 per cent had been raped;

- In Tajikistan, 9.7 per cent of mothers reported that their husbands and/or a relative had sexually abused their children.

Harmful traditional practices

- Honour killings, where family members murder relatives they believe have acted immorally, have existed for centuries in Turkey and Albania;

- Young women have been killed by their families in Germany, the United Kingdom, and Sweden for refusing to follow traditional ways;

- Child marriage is still common amongst the Roma and has led to girls being forcibly married in Slovakia and Albania;

- In the United Kingdom, about 200 cases of forced marriage are reported to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office every year.

What is being done?

Reports show that Europe is ahead of other regions in taking measures to stop violence against children. All countries in Europe are quickly changing from a past in which violent and humiliating punishment of children was common and accepted. Sweden started the process of law reform half a century ago and became the first State in the world to explicitly ban corporal punishment in 1979. It is now also illegal in Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Norway, Portugal, Romania and Ukraine. Other countries, which have said they intend to bring in a law against corporal punishment, include the Netherlands, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Law reform is accelerating. The European Court of Human Rights has issued a number of judgements that require laws against child violence to be toughened up in Europe and stressed that Governments have an obligation to criminalize non-consensual sex.

Programmes to promote good parenting are a growing trend in Europe. For example, in Moldova, parent education is being mainstreamed through the health-care system. In Serbia and Montenegro, mobile outreach teams and multidisciplinary groups for child protection have been set up in towns and cities using different professional skills and mobilizing the communities.

How do we go forward?

- States should be made accountable for failures to protect children from all forms of violence;
- Europe must become a corporal punishment free zone;
- The best interests of affected children should be the primary consideration in all policies and individual decisions on action to prevent and respond to violence against children;
- Governments must listen to children and take their views into account when they decide on anti-violence action;
- Schools, the health service and social services need to be mobilized to teach adults that violence against children is wrong;
- Children should learn how to solve conflicts non-violently. They should learn about sexual responsibility and consent at school;
- All deaths and serious injury to children in the home should be routinely and rigorously investigated;
- Anyone working in child protection should be properly paid, trained and subject to ethical codes;
- Courts should set up child-friendly ways of taking evidence;
- Regional and international human rights mechanisms should be open to children. For instance, they should be able to bring cases to the Court of Human Rights;
- Child victims/survivors of violence must have ready access to free treatment focused on rehabilitation and reintegration;
- Journalists should play their part in showing the extent of the problem, not just sensationalizing individual cases;
- European countries need to be made more aware of harmful traditional practices.


Child Abuse and Neglect in Romanian Families, a National Prevalence Study 2000, National Authority for Child Protection and Adoption (WHO and World Bank), Bucharest, 2002.

Child sexual abuse in Europe, coordinated by Corinne May-Chahal and Maria Herczog, Council of Europe Publishing, Strasbourg, 2003.

Country Programme Action Plan to Reduce Harm and Exploitation of Children in Tajikistan, UNICEF and National Commission on Child Protection.

Innocenti Report Card No. 5, A league table of child maltreatment deaths in rich nations, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence, 2003.

Responses to the governmental questionnaire circulated by the UN Study on Violence Against Children.

Research on scale of punitive violence against children in the region summarized by Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children; see


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