'Very high' levels of violence against children in PH: UNICEF exec

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 03 2016 08:30 PM

There is an alarming number of violence against children in the Philippines, based on a study by the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF).

UNICEF Philippines representative Lotta Sylwander said that in three categories of violence against children--psychological, physical, and sexual--more Filipino children are becoming victims, and most cases are happening at home.

"To me, what was most surprising and most shocking was not only the high level of sexual violence, but also physical violence," she said on Mornings @ ANC.

They found that three out of five children have experienced severe physical abuse; meaning, with implements or that they’ve been left with bruises.

The study also claims that at least 1 out of 10 experience sexual violence in the home.

"I think there’s a lack in understanding how the child’s mind works and what children understand of action and consequence; and parents tend to overreact," she said.

They also found out that smaller children seem to be more severely abused physically than bigger children. Sylwander said it's "maybe because they can’t defend themselves."

"But it’s culture in the Philippines, as far as I understand from those that studied the Filipino family, that children are the parents’ property; and they should behave according to the parents’, usually the father’s wishes," she added.

The UNICEF study also produced data to show that "26% of boys have been sexually abused in the home by parent, a sibling, or a cousin."

Internet sexual abuse is also an area of concern and findings in the Philippines will be used as springboard for their global study.

"What we find in the Philippines is going to be, basically, an example to the rest of the world on what can be done, what can be found, and how we can mitigate this seriously heinous crime against children," she said.

Sylwander noted that while physical abuse against boys are prevalent around the globe, in other parts of the world—particularly Europe, Americas, and Africa—"girls are the primary victims and it’s not necessarily within the family."

But in Europe, she noted, cases of physical abuse against children of either gender is lower because they have stricter laws and people have become aware of what physical violence actually does to the child’s mind and their development.

"If parents were aware what it does to a child, to the development of the brain, to the confidence, to the ability to actually make their way in life, maybe they would think twice before they hit the child or sexually abuse them," she said.

A more comprehensive report, the first National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children (NBS-VAC), will be released in October.

Apart from UNICEF, leading the research is the Council for the Welfare of Children. About 200 researchers, academics, children advocates, and professionals worked together to cover around 4,000 children across various socio-economic classes, religions, and locations nationwide from February to August 2015.

Sylwander said it took them three years to produce the report because they wanted a solid, scientifically sound study that can stand criticisms.

Sylwander is hopeful that by the time they release the final study in October, they have already crafted a draft of a National Action Plan with the government to stop abuses against children.

Data and programs offered by UNICEF, either for volunteer or research work, are posted on their website: http://www.unicef.org/philippines