Kids seek new legislation vs physical, sexual abuses
Issues such as corporal punishment, teenage pregnancy and sexual abuse are among the most pressing concerns affecting Filipino children today.
In a children’s assembly organized by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), 32 children from all over the Philippines urged lawmakers and policymakers to listen and respond to their concerns through effective legislation.
Unicef representative Lotta Sylwander stressed that progress and prosperity would mean little when the youth suffered from persistent poverty and illnesses.
Listen to children
“We listen to children speak powerfully about their plight. We must acknowledge these (as) more challenges are faced by Filipino children,” she said on Thursday at the Museo Pambata in Manila, where Unicef and Child Rights Network organized the “For every child, a voice; a children’s assembly.”
The assembly was held in celebration of World Children’s Day last Nov. 20.
On Thursday morning, four young speakers spoke of the top concerns personally affecting Filipino children.
These are corporal punishment or physical and humiliating punishment; teenage pregnancy and adolescent reproductive health, sexual abuse of children; a lack of services for children belonging to indigenous tribes; and children affected by disasters, conflict and displacement.
Airah, a 13-year-old who was forced to flee her home due to the Marawi City siege, suffered from bullying during her stay at an evacuation center.
“I want to talk about bullying because when we stayed in Malabang Evacuation Center, we got bullied for being an internally-displaced person. It hurts every time we get bullied. But I believe every child should have the right to live in peace and in a safe environment,” she said.
Sylwander pointed out that at home, some parents punish their children by sexually abusing them.
“It’s totally unacceptable; most of that is done by parents, siblings or cousins,” she told reporters in an interview.
Break the silence
The Unicef official explained that besides physical or corporal punishment, “there’s also other abuse that’s going on behind closed doors in the Philippines, and we need to open those doors and break the silence.”
After the assembly, the children went to the Senate in Pasay City to seek an audience with senators and voice their personal concerns.
“There needs to be an awareness that violence actually harms children for life, and they will never be able to reach their full potential if they are constantly victims of abuse,” Sylwander added.
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