This module is a resource for lecturers
Topic three - States' obligations to prevent vac and protect child victims
The right of children to be protected from all forms of violence is recognized by international and regional instruments, most notably the Convention on the Rights of the Child (GA Resolution 44/25), Articles 19, 32 and 34, and reinforced by the Optional Protocol to the CRC on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (A/RES/54/263) and the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (A/RES/54/263). The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, which supplements the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (GA Resolution 55/25), also affirms this right. Additionally, International Labour Organization Conventions 138 (Convention concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment), 182 (Convention concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, and 189 (Convention concerning decent work for domestic workers) protect children from work which has a negative impact upon their ability to reach their full potential. Finally, Article 22(2) of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (GA Resolution 61/295) also requires States to take measures, in conjunction with indigenous peoples, to ensure that indigenous women and children enjoy the full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination.
Article 19 of the CRC (GA Resolution 44/25) clearly establishes the obligation of State parties to take all forms of appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect children from violence.
Convention on the Rights of the Child - Article 19
1. State Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.
2. Such protective measures should, as appropriate, include effective procedures for the establishment of social programmes to provide necessary support for the child and for those who have the care of the child, as well as for other forms of prevention and for identification, reporting, referral, investigation, treatment and follow-up of instances of child maltreatment described heretofore, and, as appropriate, for judicial involvement.
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (2011), in its General Comment No. 13 on the right of the child to freedom from all forms of violence, referred to institutional and system violations of child rights and explained that:
Authorities at all levels of the State are responsible for the protection of children from all forms of violence may directly and indirectly cause harm by lacking effective means of implementation of obligations under the Convention. Such omissions include the failure to adopt or revise legislation and other provisions, inadequate implementation of laws and other regulations and insufficient provision of material, technical and human resources and capacities to identify, prevent and react to violence against children. It is also an omission when measures and programmes are not equipped with sufficient means to assess, monitor and evaluate progress or shortcomings of the activities to end violence against children (Committee on the Rights of the Child, 2011, para. 32).
You may wish to consult the most recent report submitted by your country to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, as well as the Committee's comments with respect to measures taken to protect children against VAC. These documents may contain useful information on recent progress and unresolved issues at the national level regarding the prevention of VAC. These reports are available publicly on the website of the Committee of the Rights of the Child.
A State may also be party to other international conventions and protocols that call for the criminalization of various forms of violence against children.In addition to its obligations under the CRC, when a State becomes party to some of these other conventions, it accepts an obligation for law enforcement and criminal justice institutions to prevent, investigate and punish perpetrators for these crimes. This is the case for example of the Optional Protocol to the CRC on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (A/RES/54/263) and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (GA Resolution 55/25).
The multidimensional nature of violence against children calls for a multifaceted response and requires a range of strategies to respond to the diverse manifestations of violence and the various settings in which it occurs, both in private and in public life, whether committed in the home, the workplace, educational and training institutions, the community or society, in the criminal justice system or in situations of armed conflict or natural disaster. It may be productive for lecturers to consider whether their own country adopted a national strategy to prevent VAC. In some cases, States create a joint plan to combat violence against women and children. See below for examples of national plans from various regions:
- Australia: The National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children 2010 to 2022.
- Cambodia: Action Plan to Prevent and Respond to Violence Against Children 2017 - 2021.
- Scotland: Equally Safe: Scotland's strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls.
- Tanzania: National Plan of Action to End Violence against Women and Children in Tanzania.
The justice system has an important role to play in preventing and responding to VAC. Most States have adopted laws that define and condemn various forms of VAC as serious crimes, but not all of them have ensured that, for example, the police and other criminal justice institutions actually take these crimes seriously and accept their respective responsibilities with respect to child protection. Effective implementation and enforcement of the law are necessary to protect children's right to be free from violence and ensure compliance with international and human rights standards. A child rights-based approach, in line with the CRC, must inform this process (INSPIRE, 2018).
Justice institutions must strengthen their efforts to prevent and respond to violence against children. They need to demonstrate greater diligence in investigating, prosecuting, convicting and rehabilitating perpetrators of crimes against children, to effectively protect children against violence and prevent recidivism. They must also ensure that their own practices do not compound the problem and subject children to further abuses and trauma.
The United Nations Model Strategies and Practical Measures on the Elimination of Violence Against Children in the Field of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (Economic and Social Council Resolution 2014/18) adopted by the General Assembly in 2014, identify the three pillars of a how justice system can contribute to ending violence against children. They are: (1) implementing broad prevention strategies, including measures to challenge the social tolerance of violence against children; (2) ensuring effective criminal justice responses to violence against children, starting by assuring that all serious forms of violence against children are prohibited by law and when necessary criminalized, and including the proactive investigation and prosecution of offences of violence against children; and, (3) preventing and responding to every form of violence and abuse during children's contacts with the justice system (UNODC, 2015a; 2015b).
Each of the strategies included in the United Nations Model Strategies (Economic and Social Council Resolution 2014/18) addresses a specific aspect of child protection against violence, and offers practical measures that reflect evidence-based crime prevention and child protection practices.
The tool proposes a total of 17 strategies organized into three distinct groups:
- general prevention strategies to address violence against children as part of broader child protection and crime prevention initiatives;
- strategies to improve the ability and capacity of the criminal justice system to respond to crimes of violence against children and to protect child victims effectively; and,
- strategies to prevent and respond to violence against children in contact with the justice system.
Source: Graphic designed by author, based on the United Nations Model Strategies and Practical Measures on the Elimination of Violence Against Children in the Field of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (Economic and Social Council Resolution 2014/18).
The United Nations Model Strategies (Economic and Social Council Resolution 2014/18) aim to improve the overall effectiveness of the criminal justice system in preventing, prohibiting and responding to all forms of violence against children, as well as preventing any violence against children in contact with the justice system itself. Their main purpose is to offer a comprehensive and practical framework to assist governments in the review of national laws, procedures and practices to ensure that they effectively prevent and respond to violence against children and fully respect the rights of child victims of violence in accordance with the CRC and other relevant human rights standards. They are also meant to guide criminal justice and other professionals responsible for crime prevention, law enforcement, criminal justice, social assistance and child protection in dealing effectively and sensitively with various aspects of violence against children.
A rights-based approach to implementing the model strategies
Source: UNODC, 2015a, p. 4.