Child abuse in Asia

Kindermisbruik in Azië Terre des Hommes

Forced child marriages, teenage pregnancies, sexual abuse and violence against girls and women are widespread in Asia. Child marriages are 'commonplace'. In Bangladesh for instance, 17 per cent of the girls marries before they are 15 years old. In Asia, out of every thousand girls between 15 and 19 years old, 62 give birth. The majority of the married girls in Bangladesh have two children before they are eighteen years old. Half of the children in India say they have been sexually abused at some point, but cases of abuse are seldom revealed.

Background

The causes of the problems mentioned above are complex, but are often related to poverty and a lack of education of girls. Also, girls in Asia are considered inferior to boys, therefore they don't learn to stand up for themselves and make their own decisions. On top of that, religious and conservative movements are becoming more and more influential in Asia. They undo the successes that governments achieve in making children sexually empowered.

Apart from that, many Asian countries still have to get their legislation right to fight sexual abuse and tackle other problems, or have difficulties applying them because of a lack of knowledge, staff or money. Many girls suffer huge consequences of for instance sexual violence or an early marriage. They suffer both physically and mentally. Because these subjects are still very much taboo in Asia, often the girls do not seek help.

Goals

In this programme, we want to shelter children in India and Bangladesh from sexual violence. We also want to make sure they can make the right choices where their sexuality, marriage and having children are concerned. In this programme we aim at four subjects:

  • The prevention of child marriages and supporting married girls.
  • The protection of children against sexual abuse and sexual intimidation.
  • The prevention of violence against women and girls.
  • The prevention of girls getting murdered.

We focus on the (potential) victims of sexual abuse, including harmful traditions such as child marriage, as well as their families and communities. We particularly focus on vulnerable children that are economically, physically or socially disadvantaged, such as street kids, (physically) disabled children and children from ethnic minorities. The results of our programme obviously need to be sustainable. This is why we also involve ministries (such as health, education and justice) and international and civil society organisations, the media and companies in our work.

Objectives

  1. Children that risk becoming victims of for instance sexual violence are given a voice and claim their rights. Victims are supported.
  2. Families and communities protect their children against sexual violence and other breaches of their rights and health.
  3. Governments offer protection for children through legislation and policies. 
  4. The courts convict perpetrators.
  5. Civil society organisations and companies protect the rights and well-being of children that are at risk of becoming the victims of sexual violence and breaches of their rights and health.

In figures:

  • 11,514 children and communities receive information about the dangers of all forms of child abuse.
  • 3,893 children are saved from their plight.
  • 1,579 victims go to school.
  • 3,039 families of vulnerable children receive professional training, which enables them to earn more, which results in their children running a smaller risk of exploitation.

What we do

Our programme consists of:

Prevention

We tackle the roots of sexual abuse, such as poverty and the lack of education. We make sure that girls go to school and that communities (including boys and men) become aware of the negative impact of traditions such as child marriages. We also work with (both married and unmarried) girls and boys on their resilience, so they can protect themselves against violence.

Protection

Victims of (for instance) sexual violence receive care. This consists of medical and psychological care, shelter, legal aid and assistance in reintegrating in the community or at school. Married children receive special care, so the consequences of their marriages are less severe and their health improves.

Promotion and lobby

We lobby for policies and legislation to protect children in international organisations and within governmetns. We also focus on a good registration of births and marriages and on forming teenage and women groups. Apart from that, we also work with celebrities and the media in order to raise awareness with governments and communities of the problems, so they provide better protection to their children.

Legal Aid

We raise the awareness of police and court staff of problems such as sexual violence and abuse, and offer training. We also want to make it easier for children to seek legal aid. We offer them legal support, so perpetrators can be prosecuted.

Results

Some results of our work to stop child abuse in Asia in the first part of 2017:

  • In Bangladesh 260 boys and 233 girls that were victims of exploitation and abuse, have been able to go to school
  • In India 1180 community members with vulnerable children participated in events to raise awareness about child abuse
  • In India 262 civil servants were educated about sexual and reproductive rights, child abuse, children's rights and prevention of sexual harassment in public 
  • In Bangladesh young girlbrides in 6,341 households were educated about health, food, sexual and reproductive health and rights
  • In India 158 ngo's particpated in a network that aims to promote children's rights
  • In Bangladesh 1,482 ‘Husband Forums’ were organised to discuss health of mother and child, food and sexual and reproductive rights.