Defence for Children International Sierra Leone (DCI-SL) urges the government of Sierra Leone to take immediate action to eradicate all forms of corporal punishment of children and build a country free from fear and free from violence for each and every child of Sierra Leone.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has an ambitious vision: to build a world free from fear and violence for each and every child. 2019 represents a milestone year in this ambition: It marks the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the 40th from the creation of Defence for Children International, 10 years after the appointment of the first Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Violence Against Children (SRSG VAC), and this year we are witnessing the first comprehensive review by the United Nations General Assembly of progress made for the strategic goals of the 2030 Agenda.
This review process is of utmost importance to Sierra Leone, where corporal punishment remains legal in schools, homes, alternative care and day-care centres. According to UNICEF’s Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey programme (MICS4), 81.7% of children aged 2-14 experienced violent “discipline” (physical punishment and/or psychological aggression) at home during the month prior to the survey. 65% experienced physical punishment, 18.8% experienced severe physical punishment (being hit or slapped on the face, head or ears, or being repeatedly hit with an instrument) and 74.4% experienced psychological aggression (being shouted at, yelled at, screamed at or insulted). Every five minutes, somewhere on our planet, violence takes the life of another child and globally, at least 1 billion children – half the world’s children – suffer violence every year.
Furthermore, the violence children endure is cumulative and interlinked, often encompassing their home life, school, community and online world, and children are rarely affected by only one form of violence at a time. Studies show that children exposed to violence at an early age are more likely to be victims of violence later in life and to become perpetrators, using violence against their partners and children; as well as to be more likely to engage in criminal behavior. As children grow up, the cumulative impact of violence casts a shadow over every part of their lives and is often passed on to their own children – a grim legacy that may persist for generations.
Despite positive developments in recent years, DCI – Sierra Leone calls on the Government of Sierra Leone to enact clear legislation in combatting discrimination against women and prohibit corporal punishment of children in all circumstances including at home; to take necessary measures to conduct public awareness-raising campaigns about its harmful effects, and to promote positive forms of non-violent discipline as an alternative to corporal punishment in homes, communities and schools.
DCI – Sierra Leone also urges the Government to rapidly design and expand a comprehensive and cross-sectoral approach to strengthen all systems and create a preventive and protective safety net for all children, with specific interventions to identify and support children at greatest risk, as well as to monitor progress and impact. Finally, DCI-SL reminds the Government of Sierra Leone to immediately lift the ban on pregnant girls attending school and promote a safe learning environment for girls to continue their education in order to strive in their communities.