3.3 The right to protection from violence

The legal right to protection

Violence against children happens regardless of where they live, and regardless of their race, class, religion or culture. It is never justifiable. You will know from your study of Module 2 that both national and international law and conventions recognise children’s right to protection from all forms of violence.

The box below contains a quote from the UNICEF Fact Sheet A summary of the rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and specifically refers to Article 19: The right to protection from all forms of violence.

Children have the right to be protected from being hurt and mistreated, physically or mentally. Governments should ensure that children are properly cared for and protect them from violence, abuse and neglect by their parents, or anyone else who looks after them. In terms of discipline, the Convention does not specify what forms of punishment parents should use. However any form of discipline involving violence is unacceptable. There are ways to discipline children that are effective in helping children learn about family and social expectations for their behaviour – ones that are non-violent, are appropriate to the child's level of development and take the best interests of the child into consideration.

The significance of the right to protection from violence is also reflected in Article 16 of the African Charter, as below:

States Parties to the present Charter shall take specific legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment and especially physical or mental injury or abuse, neglect or maltreatment including sexual abuse, while in the care of the child.

Protective measures under this Article shall include effective procedures for the establishment of special monitoring units to provide necessary support for the child and for those who have the care of the child, as well as other forms of prevention and for identification, reporting referral investigation, treatment, and follow-up of instances of child abuse and neglect.

It is clearly agreed that children have rights to be protected from all forms of violence. Therefore there is an important role for those responsible for health care provision in recognising and challenging the abuse of these rights. In the next section Activity 3.1 will help you to think about your own experiences of witnessing violence against children, and to help you understand more about what is meant by violence, and how and where it happens.

3.2 Learning outcomes

3.4 Defining violence