Academic journal article Journal of Health Population and Nutrition

Violence against Children: A Challenge for Public Health in Pakistan

Academic journal article Journal of Health Population and Nutrition

Violence against Children: A Challenge for Public Health in Pakistan

Article excerpt


World Health Organization has identified violence against children as a growing public-health issue with a global magnitude. This paper explored violence against children as a challenge in the developing world using Pakistan as a case study. A systematic review of existing research and literature on violence against children was followed by assessing the magnitude of this challenge and its impact on policy. Most research done in Pakistan is observational, descriptive, and anecdotal with data collected through survey methods and interviews with small sample sizes. The findings suggest that the confluence of macro risk factors, such as poverty, poor legal protections, illiteracy, large family size, and unemployment, create an enabling environment for violence against children. Lack of empirical data makes it difficult to assess the magnitude of this issue. The health problems reported and the extent of human potential destroyed are unknown. Conclusion calls for focused research to examine the prevalence, potential interventions, and policies in Pakistan.

Key words: Child abuse; Human development; Public health; Violence; Pakistan


The World Report on Violence and Health, released by the World Health Organization (WHO) (1), presented the issue of violence against children as a public-health problem that has a global magnitude. In the same year (2002), the member nations of the United Nations (UN) pledged to meet eight Millennium Development Goals by 2015 (2). Six of these goals are directly related to children, and all are closely linked to the commitment made at the Special Session on Children of the UN General Assembly in 2002 that all governments would work to promote and protect the rights of every child (3).

WHO defines violence as "The intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, sychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation" (1). This definition captures the range of potential and actual violence perpetuated on people, including children, the most vulnerable group. For example, an estimated 57,000 deaths have been attributed to homicide among children aged less than 15 years in 2000 (3). The global estimates of child homicide suggest that infants and very young children, aged 04 year(s), are at the highest risk, while children in lower-income countries are at a higher risk compared to those in high-income countries. The highest rates of homicide for children aged less than five years are in the African Region (AFRO) at 17.9 per 100,000 for boys and 12.7 per 100,000 for girls (3).

Violence against children occurs in different forms (physical, sexual, neglect, emotional and psychological) and at multiple levels (individual, household, institutional, and societal). A WHO Consultation on Child Abuse Prevention recognized violence against children as a growing public-health and development problem and defined child abuse as "Child abuse and maltreatment constitutes all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child's health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power" (3). Establishing the precise magnitude of child abuse for any given country is very difficult. Even in wealthy countries, recognizing and measuring the incidence of fatal violence such as infanticide is problematic due to underreporting and misclassification of deaths. The situation in developing countries is even more challenging due to a mix of poor health-information systems, faulty legal and police structures, and sociocultural stigma (3). Data on non-fatal abuse is even harder to collect because of different legal and cultural definitions of abuse and neglect across countries. …

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