A widespread phenomenon
Violence against children is a widespread phenomenon affecting millions of children all over
the world. Whether it takes place within the family, schools, alternative care and justice institutions, the community or
even within workplace environments (both those workplaces mandated under law and those which exist illegally and breach child
labour and exploitation laws), it is often implicitly socially condoned and goes without legal sanctions. It takes many forms
including, child sexual abuse and exploitation; child trafficking; child labour, exploitation and slavery; as well as child
recruitment and exploitation by criminal and armed groups, including terrorist and violent extremist groups. In spite of its
various forms and the places in which it occurs, it remains invisible, unrecorded, unprosecuted and unpunished, in every country
of the world. It cuts across all cultures, class, ethnicities and religions.
Child safety and global development
It has serious implications for children's physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing and development.
In fact, children may experience poor mental and physical health, poor performance in school and increased risk of drug and
alcohol abuse, which will in the long term affect society's abilities to reach economic and social stability. Investment in
children is key to eradicate poverty, boost shared prosperity, and enhance intergenerational equity. The link between child
safety and global development, is recognized in the Sustainable
Development Goals (SDGs) as a pre-condition for global development. Goal
16.2, explicitly calls for the elimination of violence against children in all its forms, and highlights the crucial role
played by children in the construction of peace, justice and robust institutions.
Children in contact with the justice system
When children are in contact with the law (as alleged offenders, victims and/or
witnesses of crime) they can be at risk of violence within the justice system. Children may be subjected to physical, mental
and sexual violence, and they may face cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment while in contact with the justice system and,
especially, when they are deprived of their liberty. Experiences of violence shape the child's future relationship to the
State. If a child experiences violence within the very institutions responsible for upholding justice, law and order, that
child is likely to grow up with little faith, investment or respect in the State's institutions nor its representatives, and,
as a consequence, their first interaction with the criminal justice system is unlikely to be their last.