Child abuse is also a virus that worsens with the pandemic COVID 19 – International Day for the Elimination of Child Abuse


International Day for the Fight Against Child Abuse

Today we celebrate the International Day for the Fight Against Child Abuse in one of the most difficult moments in the history of humanity, where a pandemic of COVID-19 is paralyzing the world, highlighting the vulnerability of women and men, regardless of age, nationality or social status. All countries on five continents have been forced to declare states of emergency and adopt health measures to contain the spread of a virus and preserve as many lives as possible.

There are other situations, which also compromise the lives of children that have been increasing as a result of the responses provided within the framework of COVID 19, but which nevertheless remain silent. Abuse of children and adolescents can be as lethal as or more lethal than a virus. Physical, sexual, emotional or neglectful abuse are some of the forms of maltreatment that mark the lives of millions of children around the world.

Most violence against children occurs in their homes and the pandemic has aggravated this situation due to, among other factors, the confinement measures implemented and the increased psychosocial stress on families. This is compounded by the interruption or low level of functioning of protective services, resulting in the invisibility of child maltreatment.

From civil society organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean we raise our voices for a world free of violence against children. There is sufficient bibliography on the negative effects of abuse against children and adolescents, ranging from death or serious injury to severe limitations in emotional and psychological development, being, at this time, the family the space where violence is present and day by day increases in frequency and severity.

Recalling the Pronouncement of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the IACHR Resolution on The Pandemic and Human Rights in Latin America and the Call of the United Nations experts to mitigate the risks of violence against children, we call on the States of Latin America and the Caribbean to:

  1. Take all necessary and effective measures to put an end to the abuse of children to meet target 16.2 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes ending abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children and adolescents. In the context of the current pandemic, ensure that responses effectively include the necessary measures to this end, including adopting measures to prevent abuse and domestic violence, facilitating access to means of reporting and acting with due diligence in response to reports made.
  2. Strengthen, or promote where necessary, the National Systems for the Protection of Children and Adolescents. For an adequate attention to children, among other measures, the institutional, technical, financial and operational strengthening that guarantees, from a rights and gender perspective, the development of actions for prevention and response to victims. Establishing a comprehensive response that includes strategies to ensure that the measures established for the pandemic are coordinated, complementary and universal. Municipal prevention and protection agencies should be considered essential services for the duration of the quarantine.
  3. Develop and ensure effective compliance with the different protocols for the care of child and adolescent victims of abuse that guarantee the immediate restitution of their rights, quality psychosocial support and the strengthening of the family, school and community environment. Ensuring that the current restrictions due to the pandemic do not compromise or weaken the provisions of the pandemic, defining basic child protection services as essential and ensuring that they remain functional and accessible.
  4. Reduce the social and gender inequalities that make girls and adolescents particularly vulnerable to abuse and other forms of violence. Ensuring that, during the current emergency situation, there are sufficient protocols for identification, referral, care and coordination to protect and provide an immediate response to child and adolescent survivors of violence, who in most cases live with their perpetrator, which makes it difficult for them to access the means to file a complaint.
  5. Develop actions for the special protection of children in contexts of human mobility, armed conflict, deprived of parental care, deprived of liberty, with disabilities or belonging to indigenous peoples, being especially difficult circumstances, in which the risk factors for abuse or other forms of violence are increased. This ensures that no child is left behind by the measures in place.
  6. Support families as primary spaces for the protection of children, allowing them to assume an affective, formative and protective role in their upbringing and education. To this end, it is necessary to develop prevention programs and services that contribute to strengthen parental capacities and modify social norms or cultural patterns that encourage violence against children as a form of relationship.
  7. Incorporate civil society so that it can assume a leading role in the protection of children through joint actions and initiatives for prevention, dissemination, reporting and support for child victims of abuse. In the current context, this allows for the creation of safeguards that enable intervention in emergency actions and involve CSOs in the analysis, design and decision-making processes related to the pandemic.
  8. Promote spaces for participation and active listening to children, where they can freely express their ideas, opinions and points of view and exercise active citizenship to make their concerns known, formulate proposals and demand the fulfillment of their rights. Children are agents of change, protagonists of their lives in their families and communities, and it is with them that we will undoubtedly be able to combat this global crisis.