Child abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic
by Jeshua Bardoo
According to the World Health Organization’s 1999 “Report of the consultation on child abuse prevention”, Child abuse or 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”.
Children are one of the most vulnerable groups of the population who may be more at risk of being subjected to various human rights violations. Child abuse is not a new phenomenon. However, sadly, according to recent reports, it appears that the COVID-19 pandemic may have exacerbated incidences of child abuse.
In an article published on UN News’ website titled, “Children vulnerable to abuse and violence during coronavirus lockdowns, UN experts warn”, it was noted that Ms. Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, a Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, stated that “Globally, confinement measures and the disrupted provision of already limited child protection services exacerbate the vulnerability of children living in psychiatric and social care institutions, orphanages, refugee camps, immigration detention centres and other closed facilities”.
Additionally, in the same article it was noted that “At a time of lockdowns and home isolation, children are at greater risk of experiencing violence, exploitation and challenges to their mental health”.
Furthermore, the same article also noted that “travel restrictions and the increase in online users will likely lead to a significant spike in sexual grooming online by paedophiles and predators, live streaming of child sexual abuse and the production and distribution of child sexual abuse material – making robust collaboration between private industry and law enforcement essential”.
Using the UK as an example, in an article published on the Telegraph’s website titled, “Specialists warn of huge rise in child abuse during coronavirus lockdown”, it was noted that “Child abuse soared during the lockdown, specialists at one of Britain’s leading children’s hospitals have warned after seeing a surge in cases”, and that “In just one month, the number of new cases at the head trauma unit of Great Ormond Street Hospital rose by 1,493 per cent compared with the same period in the previous three years, which consultants said pointed to a “silent pandemic”.
Children have rights and we must respect and protect these rights. Child abuse is a very serious human rights violation and during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many children may be more vulnerable to different forms of abuse, we must do everything in our power to protect them and to hold child abusers accountable. Thank you for your time.
- Author: Jeshua Bardoo is a 2012 Vincentian National Exhibition Scholar and a 2019/20 Chevening Scholar studying an LLM International Human Rights Law at Brunel University London. He can be contacted at [email protected]