Violence against children in Jordan, time to act now

Musa Shteiwi
Musa Shteiwi is former director of the Center for Strategic Studies and professor of sociology, at the University of Jordan, and was selected as a member of Royal Committee for Political Modernization.(Photo: Jordan News)
A study recently released by UNICEF and the National Council for Family Affairs revealed that violence against children is widespread and alarming.
اضافة اعلان
The study, which was announced last month, was based on a national sample of 3,281 school students between the ages of 8 and 17 selected from public, private, and UNRWA schools. An additional sample of 296 Syrian refugees in camps and a small sample of people with disabilities were also selected. The results indicate that children are subjected to a wide range of violence of all types: physical, psychological, sexual, and electronic.

At national level, seven out of 10 children have been subject to physical violence, five out of 10 were subjected to psychological violence, three out of 10 were subjected to sexual violence, and one out of 10 to electronic violence. The results also showed several trends that are worth mentioning.

First, that violence against children is prevalent among all social and economic groups, and not only among poor or less educated groups. Certainly, these problems are probably greater among poor and low-income level people because of the daily pressures to meet the needs of the children and disciplining them at the same time, but it is not restricted to these groups.

Second, that physical violence, which is more prevalent, is practiced against children by those who are supposed to provide care and guidance to them. Physical violence against children is mostly practiced by parents (47 percent), siblings (44 percent), peers (39.4 percent), and teachers (27 percent).

Third, that physical and psychological violence is practiced by care takers to discipline children because they had made certain mistakes, but, most importantly, because they had disobeyed the authority at home or school. This reveals the persistence of traditional authoritarian approaches to raising and teaching children, on the one hand, and the resistance to this pattern by children, on the other.

Fourth, that children who are subjected to physical or sexual violence have limited options when it comes to getting emotional and psychological support or help, as a majority of them turn to the police stations and to a lesser degree to the family protection units. This indicates that the society has not responded adequately to this alarming problem, probably because the majority believes that this is a private family matter, which makes them refrain from getting involved in it.

Finally, it must be said that violence against children is a multi-faceted phenomenon that is the result of a combination of factors that interact with each other, such as economic, legal, cultural, technological change, and the increasing globalization that affects our way of life and the aspiration of children themselves.

But what is certain is that violence, of all types, against children has a very damaging and lasting effect on their well-being and their future, deprives them of their basic human rights and has negative ramification for the society at large.

The field work of the study was conducted in 2019 and therefore it did not capture the impact of the COVId-19 epidemic and the economic, social, and psychological consequences on this issue, which, many studies reveal, has exacerbated the pressure on families and might had a direct impact on family violence in general and violence against children in particular.

This fact does not alter the value of the study, which reveals that violence against children in Jordan is persistently high and requires immediate national attention.

The current efforts of many national and international organizations are important and should be commended, but it is clear that it is not enough to stem the tide of violence against children and deal with its consequences. What is needed is a comprehensive approach with high commitment from the government, because the problem is multi-faceted and requires a holistic approach that involves legal, economic, institutional, educational, and awareness dimensions. What is needed, also, is nothing less than a national strategy to combat violence against children. It is high time to act.

The writer is former director of the Center for Strategic Studies and professor of sociology, at the University of Jordan, and was selected as a member of Royal Committee for Political Modernization.

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