BANGKOK (AlertNet) – Up to 30 percent of children in parts of the East Asia and Pacific region suffer from physical abuse including forced sex, causing lifelong damage, according to a new report from the United Nations’ children’s fund UNICEF.
The best-case scenario suggests 1 in 10 children experience physical abuse, while the worst case finds 30.3 percent are affected, the report said. East Asia and Pacific is home to 580 million children, or over a quarter of the world’s children.
“Child maltreatment has harmful long-term consequences, not only for the children suffering the abuse, but also for the families and societies in which they live,” Amalee McCoy, UNICEF’s regional child protection specialist, said in a statement.
Severe physical abuse – beating and kicking resulting in physical injury – is prevalent, affecting nearly one in four children in some parts of the region.
The report found that between 14 percent and 30 percent of boys and girls report experiencing forced sex, from 13.8 percent in the Mariana Islands to 29.3 percent in the Marshall Islands.
Many young people’s first experience of sexual intercourse is forced, it said, adding that prevalence was higher for girls than boys in most studies.
“This finding is especially pronounced in Cambodia where 51.2 percent of girls compared with 1.9 percent of boys reported having been forced to have sexual intercourse,” the report said.
MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS
The report, Child Maltreatment: Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences in East Asia and Pacific, is the first review of existing studies produced by experts between January 2000 and November 2010.
There is a growing body of research on the subject but many countries in the region still lack basic data on the mistreatment of children, the report said.
Children who are abused, neglected and exploited are more likely to be depressed, develop other mental health problems, think about or attempt suicide, exhibit physical symptoms, and engage in more high-risk behaviours, the report noted.
The impact of abuse is cumulative, with children who been victimised more than once far more likely to experience serious long-term consequences, it said.
One in three North Korean children and almost four out of five Chinese children report experiencing emotional abuse. Child labour is also common, ranging from 6.5 percent in Vietnam to 56 percent in a fishing area in Cambodia, the report noted.