by Dr. Khine Khine Win
Every day, millions of children throughout the world are subjected to abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence in different ways. Sexual violence against children is a gross violation of children’s rights. Yet it is a global reality across all strata of society and in all countries of the world. It can take the form of sexual abuse, harassment, rape or sexual exploitation in prostitution or pornography. It is usually a silent, hidden, indivisible crime that both boys and girls face at home or outside, often at the hands of trusted adults. Talking about sexual violence is difficult because of the many taboos that surround the issues of sexuality, abuse and exploitation. In fact, cases of sexual violence against children are even more difficult to talk about because of a culture of silence and shame suppresses any discussion of children.
The majority of children never report the abuse, and often this is because they are afraid of their parents’ reactions, because they fear getting in trouble, or because they don’t know how to tell. The child who keeps the abuse secret is more likely to experience severe physical and emotional consequences, both in childhood and later in life.
There are many factors that contribute to sexual violence against children such as children’s being not considered to have the same rights as adults, gender discrimination, tradition, religion, cultural practice and superstition. Because of increasing poverty, more families are either forced or deceived into selling their girls into prostitution. There are other factors like illiteracy, lack of awareness about sexual violence against children. Because of majority’s receiving no sex education either at home or at school, the increasing threat of HIV, the demand for young girls who are virgins and so on.
Evidence shows that sexual violence can have serious short and long-term physical, psychological and social consequences not only for girls or boys, but also for their families and communities. This includes increased risks for illness, unwanted pregnancy, psychological distress, stigma, discrimination and difficulties at school. The consequences of violence can be devastating. Above all, it can result in early death. In these reasons, preventing and responding to violence and exploitation is essential to ensuring children’s right to survival, development, participation and well-being.
From human rights perspective, all children have rights and those rights must be protected. Almost every country in the world including Myanmar has committed to protecting the right of children by ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child, CRC. It is the most universally ratified human rights treaty in human history. Articles 34 and 35 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child say that governments should protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse and take all measures possible to ensure that they are not abducted, sold or trafficked. And also there is an optional protocol of CRC namely Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. This optional protocol supplements the CRC Convention by providing States with detailed requirements to end the sexual exploitation and abuse of children. It also protects children from being sold for non-sexual purposes—such as other forms of forced labor, illegal adoption and organ donation. Myanmar became a State Party of that optional protocol in 2012.
In order to address sexual violence against children issue, we have to collaborate and cooperate among many partners. In effect, preventing and responding to sexual violence against children should be everybody’s business. Children hopes and expectations require the State to act now with real urgency to fulfill their obligations to children as right-holders. International cooperation and public education play crucial role to combat sexual abuse on child and also public awareness, information and education campaigns help protect children from sexual abuse. Much more needs to be done to prevent sexual abuse, to encourage girls and boys to report abuse and to punish perpetrators seriously. In deed, there are many ways for guardians to deal with problem situations. For instant, if a child discloses that he/she has been sexually abused or exploited, Do support the children and explain that he/she is not responsible for what happened, Do believe the child, Do be empathetic, understanding and supportive, Don’t criticize the child, Don’t get angry with the child, Don’t ignore the abuse, Lodge a complaint with the police immediately and Don’t make the child feel guilty about the abuse. The most important thing is that your first responsibility is to the child –to protect him/her and to ensure that there is no breach of privacy or confidentiality.
Every child deserves a future and they are our legacy for the future. Again they are our future and deserve every opportunity to live full and healthy lives. If children were to grow up without being subjected to humiliation, our world will flourish. In order to save the children, our legacy for the future, we must accelerate our efforts to end the brutality of rape and other forms of sexual violence against children and to end impunity for sexual violence against children. It’s the time to stop sexual violence against children.