The family and State institutions are the main settings where Latin American children and adolescents experience violence. This was one of the main findings from the Latin America Consultation on violence against children that ended today in Buenos Aires after three days of meetings, with the participation of more than 250 experts from the Latin American region.
“Democratic consolidation in Latin America will only be possible when children are educated in respect, freedom and non-violence, protected against any violation of their rights,” said Brazilian Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, the Independent Expert in charge of the Study on Violence against Children.
Pinheiro, is the former coordinator for University of São Paulo’s (US) Center of Violence.
“According to the last days’ findings, values promoted by the family and institutions are often authoritarian values that use violence as their main tool,” he added.
Violence at home arises in private settings where certain traditional sexist and authoritarian practices prevail. Violence in the family affects mainly girls, especially in the form of sexual abuse.
According to Nils Kastberg, Regional Director of UNICEF Americas and Caribbean Regional Office, “the silence and the unacceptable tolerance that surrounds abuse in family settings contribute to the current state of widespread impunity. We need a social movement from all Latin Americans, women and men, to break this silence now.”
Most of the abuses against children take place behind closed doors by trusted adults: parents, family members and friends. Children often suffer alone, afraid of speaking out or being punished.
Violence in institutions, such as police stations, prisons and internment centers, is another reality in the region, according to the experts and children participating in the Consultation.
“The worst part of this argument is that the States, instead of playing their role in protecting children and promoting their best interests, are often the ones that perpetrate acts of violence against them, violating their rights,” emphasizedÂ Roberto Garretón, Director of the Regional Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
According to the experts’ recommendations to address these violations, States must adopt all administrative, legislative and financial measures to protect children against all forms of violence.
“The political will should translate into budgetary resources to ensure commitments already undertaken by Latin American States”, said Mr. Pinheiro.
The Latin America Consultation has been organized by the United Nations Children’s Fund ( UNICEF ) in cooperation with the Government of Argentina, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Pan American Health Organization and a committee of regional NGOs set up for this purpose.
Buenos Aires Declaration
Several senior officials from Latin American countries participated at the closing of the Latin American Consultation, including Daniel Filmus, Minister of Education in Argentina: Nilmário Miranda, Minister of the Special Secretariat for Human Rights in Brazil and Vice-Ministers from Argentina, Bolivia, El Salvador and Uruguay.
The political representatives agreed to sign the Buenos Aires Declaration on Violence against Children and Adolescents, a key contribution to the UN Secretary General’s Study on Violence against Children, which will be submitted to the UN General Assembly in 2006.
The Declaration addresses different forms of violence and warns that Latin America is one of the most violent regions in the world, with children and women the main targets.
Among other points, the document recommends changing social, cultural, political and legal parameters in important areas, including the age of criminal responsibility and sentencing, enacting legislation to ban corporal and psychological punishment as disciplinary methods, and ensuring the quality and equity of education that is free of charge.
Unicef – www.unicef.org