Child Abuse Policy

Child abuse is defined as all inhuman actions and behaviours targeted at children. According to legal provisions, anyone below the age of 18 is a child. Children are especially susceptible to being the victims of harmful actions or behaviours by the adults around them by reason of their physical and mental characteristics as well as their common socio-economic status. Such harmful or negative behaviour is termed child abuse. Child abuse could also be defined as wilful actions or behaviours aimed at children which is emotionally or physically harmful or neglectful or could lead to death. Various kinds of behaviour qualify as child abuse, from physical assault, deprivation, psychological and emotional torment to sexual abuse. Child abuse could happen anywhere, in the home or at school.

Children being usually smaller, physically weaker, mentally and emotionally less developed and socially and emotionally dependent on adults are easily susceptible to unwholesome behaviour and exploitation by unscrupulous, morally bankrupt, and violent or unstable adults. Children could be abused by parents, relatives, teachers or others. Child abuse becomes worsened in societies that are poverty riddled or war torn. The United Nations recognised that a great proportion of children worldwide either suffer abuse or are threatened by it due to hunger and starvation, war or illiteracy. This is one of the major reasons for the establishment of The United Nations International Children Emergency Fund. Most regions of the world have developed charters for child rights protection such as The African Child Rights Charter and The European Child Rights Charter.

Policies that are developed for the protection of children from abuse are generally known as child abuse policies. Most governments and institutions all over the world have one child abuse policy or the other. Child abuse policies are designed not only to protect children from abuse but also to ensure that their rights are protected. Children’s rights are human rights specifically stated to suit the vulnerability and dependency of children. These rights include civil rights, political rights, economic, social and cultural rights, individual rights and collective rights. For example, the right to be safe, educated, have an identity and to live with their parents are children’s rights. Specifically, child abuse policies include legislative enactments by governments, agency regulations, and protocols for the protection of the rights of children. Children’s rights were first recognized after the First World War by the Geneva declaration in 1924. This was followed up by the declaration of children rights in 1959. Recognition of children rights became a reality in 1989 with the adoption of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Child abuse policies worldwide generally include the elements of definition of what constitutes child abuse, identification of instances of child abuse, identification of those vested with the statutory responsibility to report child abuse as well as those empowered to act on such cases, reporting lines, consequences of failure to report cases of child abuse and punishments for offenders as well as remedies for children subjected to child abuse.

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