27 Jan, 2020
Child-sensitive criminal justice –exploring good practices using the UN Model Strategies on the Elimination of Violence against Children
Every year, and in every region of the world, children suffer the cumulative impact of physical, sexual, mental and emotional violence. The statistics are appalling, even by the most conservative estimates. According to the UN Global Survey of Violence Against Children:
- Between 500 million and 1.5 billion children worldwide endure some form of violence
- 9 in 10 children live in countries where corporal punishment is not fully prohibited
- 120 million girls have experienced sexual violence
Such violence takes place in all settings, including those where children expect to be safe – in the home, in schools, in justice and care institutions.
Not only do children suffer the trauma of the violence, they are too often re-traumatized by the additional hardships faced when trying to access criminal justice. There is a hidden nature of violence against children. Many children never tell anyone or seek any help, protection or justice. They might not be aware that they are victims or simply do not know where to turn for help. This is especially so when the perpetrator is a family member, caregiver, or teacher. When they do look for help, the violence is often minimized, dismissed or blamed on the victims, . Sometimes children are even mistaken as offenders when they are in fact victims. Children are frequently perceived and treated as ‘objects’ in need of assistance rather than as rights holders entitled to protection and justice. Paternalistic attitudes and harmful negative stereotypes about children by the police, prosecutors and judges; insensitive criminal justice procedures; and lack of support services can expose child victims to secondary victimization.
All but two countries in the world have signed onto the Convention on the Rights of the Child, requiring governments to meet children’s basic needs; help them reach their full potential and protect them from violence, abuse and neglect. Children’s special and dependent status creates real difficulties for them in pursuing protection and justice. So in 2014, the UN General Assembly adopted the UN Model Strategies and Practical Measures on the Elimination of Violence against Children in the Field of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice to help governments improve the child-sensitivity of their criminal justice system. It sets out measures that governments can take to ensure that their criminal justice is
- Age appropriate
- Adapted to and focused on the needs and rights of the child
- Respecting the rights of the child to due process
- Respecting the rights of the child to participate in and to understand the proceedings
- Respecting private and family life and the child’s integrity and dignity
A forthcoming study by the Thailand Institute of Justice and the ICCLR reviews good practices in Southeast Asia in establishing child-sensitive criminal justice response: “Towards Child-Sensitive Criminal Justice in Southeast Asia for Child Victims of Violence: Exploring Good Practices Using the UN Model Strategies on the Elimination of Violence against Children”. Some examples of good practices are One Stop Crisis Centres, multidisciplinary investigative teams, children’s desks at local police stations, and specialized children’s courts.
Eileen Skinnider is an international consultant on justice, gender and human rights issues and a Senior Associate of the International Centre for Criminal Law Reform. A lawyer by profession, with an LL.B. (U of S, 1987) and LL.M. in Public International Law (LSE, 1996), she has over 20 years of experience in conducting research, developing global tools, and providing technical assistance regarding the national implementation of international human rights and criminal justice standards.
UN Global Survey of Violence Against Children [link https://violenceagainstchildren.un.org/content/global-survey]
Convention on the Rights of the Child [link https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/crc.aspx]
UN Model Strategies and Practical Measures on the Elimination of Violence against Children in the Field of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice [link https://www.refworld.org/docid/54366aaa4.html]
Thailand Institute of Justice [link: https://www.tijthailand.org/overview]
Photo by Andrew Le on Unsplash.