Friday, November 03, 2006

Child Abuse: As American as Apple Pie

The United Nations recently came out with a comprehensive global report on child abuse, the first of its kind from what I understand. It details widespread violence against children, and what I found surprising was just how much of it is socially accepted and even legal. The main findings include:

  • It estimates that some 150 million girls, 14% of the planet's child population, are sexually abused each year, as well as seven percent of boys, or 73 million children
  • There were 218 million child labourers in 2004, of whom 126 million did hazardous work, and 5 million children live in slavery
  • There are as many as 250,000 child soldiers around the world
  • 53,000 children were murdered in 2002
  • More than one million children are imprisoned worldwide (100,000 of these children are in the U.S.)
Download the complete report in 6 languages.

The U.S. and Canada are certainly not immune from these problems. For example, child abuse kills more than 3 children in the U.S. every day - source).

From ZNet, Lucinda Marshall writes in Child Abuse: As American as Apple Pie: "If we truly valued families and the lives of children, these are the issues we would address."

Unfortunately somehow "family values" has some kind of twisted Orwellian meaning. "Family values" apparently means a very narrowly defined family (nuclear), but not necessarily a safe one. Proponents of "Traditional Family Values" oppose abortion but have little to say about protecting the most vulnerable among us from, say, poverty or parental neglect (except maybe to pour scorn on teenage single mothers). Poverty is the most frequently and persistently noted risk factor for child abuse (here and here), and it is something that is within our power to change.

Social welfare, decent wages for the working poor, subsidized housing, nationally run child care, improved labour laws, well-funded public schools, easily accessible & high quality health care, community programs for children... these do so much more for children than banning same-sex marriage or criminalizing abortion, or a $1200 taxable child care allowance (which ends up as only $301 net for lower income families).

Topic: Family & Children

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