ASEAN meeting on violence vs children opens in Manila

MANILA-- Despite the existence of legal frameworks and interventions on child protection, violence against children (VAC) remains to be prevalent, poorly understood, and often socially tolerated, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo said Tuesday.

Violence against children can happen anywhere -- it could be in schools, institutions, workplace, community and at home, where children should feel the safest. The scars leave our children with long-term damaging effects to their development and total well-being, Taguiwalo said as she opened the 7th High-Level Cross-Regional Roundtable on Violence Against Children, held at the Manila Hotel.

These are trying times for our children, she said.

Deep-rooted problems of violence and sexual glorification and personification are amplified in social media and the internet. Rights and lives are relegated in favor of click-bait headlines and exaggerated content, the social welfare chief said.

Citing the 2015 National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children, she reported that two out of three Filipino children have experienced some form of physical violence; three of five have encountered some form of psychological violence; and one of four have suffered from some form of sexual violence.

Of the more than 185,000 individuals displaced by the armed conflict in Marawi City, more than 50,000 are children, Taguiwalo said.

During debriefing sessions, she said, children in evacuation centers draw pictures of their houses, which shows their longing to return to their homes with their families.

Proper interventions must be provided to children victims of violence, she added.

The 7th Cross-Regional Meeting, which carries the theme Placing Children at the Heart of the Sustainable Development Agenda: Accelerating Progress in Children's Protection from Violence, hopes to pursue stronger initiatives to combat transnational crimes affecting children, such as child labor, trafficking, sexual exploitation, and pornography, she said.

We need to create an enabling environment where the rights of children are upheld and protected. This includes measures to lessen or eliminate discrimination and violence based on nationality, race, gender, language, religion, economic status, disability, or background, she added.

Taguiwalo described the meeting as a milestone for the forum, as for the first time, children have been asked to join the annual activity, which has always been attended by adults.

Mindful that children's voices should be heard, this forum will give children a chance to voice out their concerns, opinions and recommendations on matters affecting them most, Taguiwalo said.

The inputs of the Children's Parallel Session will be used as the basis of the discussion in supporting efforts to reach goals and targets related to ending violence against children agreed upon in Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development.

The three-day meeting is attended by almost 90 delegates of ASEAN sectoral bodies with relevant work on violence against children, such as the Senior Officials Meeting on Social Welfare and Development (SOMSWD), the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC), ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), and children delegates.

"As the chair, the Philippines will act as one of the forerunners in eliminating all forms of violence against children. It is envisioned that at the end of this meeting, people will be more aware of the abuses that children are facing every day and that more efforts will be given to end all forms of violence against children, Taguiwalo said.

She further said that ASEAN member states have acknowledged the importance of intensifying efforts to prevent, protect, and respond to all forms of VAC through the adoption of The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and the Elimination of Violence against Children in ASEAN in 2013.

During the 27th ASEAN Summit in 2015, the member states also adopted the ASEAN Regional Plan of Action on the Elimination of Violence against Children.

Meanwhile, Korean Ambassador to the Philippines Jae-Shin Kim said their government has recognized the seriousness of the problem of cyber bullying and online activities against children.

Our online agencies had been working hard on these issues for the sake of our children. But this cannot be achieved by government alone. To address VAC, there must be joint efforts from diverse stakeholders and entities. This is why I strongly believe that today's solidarity is both timely and appropriate, he said.

He further said that member countries' utmost job is to fight and pursue commitments for the sake of the future of the children in the region, as well as those around the world.

Source: Philippines News Agency