Why it is important
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All children have the right to protection. They have the right to survive, to be safe, to belong, to be heard, to receive adequate care and to grow up in a protective environment.
A family is the first line of protection for children. Parents or other caregivers are responsible for building a protective and loving home environment. Schools and communities are responsible for building a safe and child-friendly environment outside the child's home. In the family, school and community, children should be fully protected so they can survive, grow, learn and develop to their fullest potential.
Millions of children are not fully protected. Many of them deal with violence, abuse, neglect, exploitation, exclusion and/or discrimination every day. Such violations limit their chances of surviving, growing, developing and pursuing their dreams.
Any child can be vulnerable to violations in many places, including the home. The actual number of children experiencing violations is not easy to determine. This type of data is hard to collect and is not updated frequently. However, it is estimated that:
- about 150 million girls and 73 million boys under 18 experienced forced sexual intercourse and other forms of sexual violence and exploitation during 2002
- 150 million children aged 5–14 are engaged in child labour
- millions of children, mostly girls, work as domestic labourers (maids) in private homes
- approximately 1.2 million children are trafficked annually (most recent annual estimate from 2000)
- the births of around 51 million children born in 2007 were not registered
- between 22 per cent and 84 per cent of children 2–14 years old experienced physical punishment in the home in 37 countries surveyed between 2005 and 2007.
Governments, communities, local authorities and non-governmental organizations, including faith-based and community-based organizations, can help ensure that children grow up in a family environment. They can make sure that schools and communities protect all children and prevent child maltreatment. They can protect girls and boys from violations such as abuse, sexual exploitation, trafficking and work in hazardous conditions, as well as harmful practices, including child marriage.
Girls and boys should be encouraged and supported to speak up for children's rights and to take an active role in their own protection against abuse, violence, exploitation and discrimination.
Girls and boys should be equally protected within their family, school and community.
If these protective environments are lacking, children are more vulnerable to violence, abuse, sexual exploitation, trafficking, child labour, harmful practices and discrimination.
Living with family, birth registration, access to basic services, protection from violence, a child-friendly justice system based on child rights, and children's active engagement in developing their knowledge and skills to protect themselves are important building blocks in constructing protective environments in which children can develop and fulfil their potential.
1. Every child should have the opportunity to grow up in a family. If a family is unable to care for the child, steps should be taken by the authorities to address the reasons and make every effort to keep the family together.Supporting Information
2. Every child has a right to a name and nationality. Registering a child's birth helps to ensure a child's right to education, health care and legal and social services. Birth registration is a vital step towards protection from abuse and exploitation.Supporting Information
3. Girls and boys must be protected from all forms of violence and abuse. This includes physical, sexual and emotional abuse, neglect and harmful practices such as child marriage and genital mutilation/cutting of girls. Families, communities and authorities are responsible for ensuring this protectionSupporting Information
4. Children must be protected from all work that is hazardous. Work should not prevent them from attending school. Children should never be involved in the worst forms of child labour, such as slavery, forced labour, drug production or trafficking.Supporting Information
5. Girls and boys can be at risk of sexual abuse and exploitation in their home, school, workplace or community. Measures should be taken to prevent sexual abuse and exploitation. Sexually abused and exploited children need immediate help to stop such abuse.Supporting Information
6. Children are vulnerable to trafficking where protection for children is weak or missing. The government, civil society and families are responsible for preventing trafficking, as well as helping children who are victims to reintegrate into their families and communities, if it is in their best interest.Supporting Information
7. Justice for children should be based on child rights. Depriving children of their liberty (incarcerating them) must always be a last resort. Procedures that are sensitive to children should be put in place for children who are victims or witnesses of crime.Supporting Information
8. Income support and social welfare services can help keep families together and children in school and ensure access to health care.Supporting Information
9. All children have a right to age-appropriate information, to be heard and to participate in making decisions that concern them. Fulfilment of this right enables children to take an active role in their own protection against abuse, violence and exploitation, and to become active citizens.Supporting Information