Violence against children affects over 1 billion adolescents globally and results in a loss of between 3.5 and 7% of global GDP
As a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Bulgaria is obliged to take all necessary legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect children from all forms of “physical or mental violence, abuse or exploitation, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation”. At the same time, current research in our country shows that every second child is a victim of some form of violence by the age of 18. Against the background of these statistics, policies to tackle violence against children in this country stand no chance of being effective.
Why is this so?
Data on violence against children in our country is collected by at least eight different national institutions. However, they are partial, looking only through the portfolio of the respective institution, and there is often a discrepancy in data between institutions even for the same indicator. All of this dooms attempts to look at the figures in their entirety, to analyse trends and to identify appropriate measures.
We publish a link to the report “Data Collection Systems on Violence against Children in Bulgaria”, prepared by Maria Brestnichka from the National Network for Children. The document examines the institutions in Bulgaria that collect data, by what indicators each of them classifies the cases and what are the weaknesses that make qualitative analysis impossible, and therefore the proposal of workable policies.
The initial review shows that data on violence against children is collected in part by at least 8 different national institutions, including the Ministry of Interior Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the State Agency for Child Protection (SCPA), the Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of Health and the National Centre for Public Health and Analyses, the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy and the Agency for Social Assistance, the Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Bulgaria.
However, each institution collects data in relation to its own sector using indicators that are consequential to or oriented towards the performance of its own functions. Examples are the data collected on child victims of violence by the Ministry of Interior/Prosecutor’s Office, which collects data on child victims of crime; by the SACP/ASA, which collects data on reports of violence and open cases; and by the RHI/NCHA, which collects data on child victims of violence registered in health facilities, as well as on causes of child mortality, but only by ICD-10 and without examining linkages to acts of violence. It also remains unclear how these data correlate with each other and whether it is even possible to establish quantitative data on the number of child victims of violence.
Thus, in practice, there is not only a lack of a common indicator system for tracking cases of violence against children and the factors associated with it, but also a lack of shared understanding of the definition of ‘violence against a child’. It is also evident that there is data which, although collected by institutions, is neither used to improve existing mechanisms nor to plan evidence-based policies to address violence against children.
A case in point is the overlapping functions of the DASA and the ASA in terms of protection, which leads to confusion. To some extent, this process is regulated by the ongoing cutbacks in the functions of the SAPS, which raises the question of which state institution actually has a mandate to coordinate policies relating to children in general and violence against children in particular. A significant part of the main issues that arise are not so much regarding the existence or lack of structures, but rather the capacity, functionality and effectiveness of the existing structures.
First steps towards real improvement
The data collected must be integrated into a common framework. This will enable real analysis and recommendations for improving policies and measures in the field. Detailed tracking of disaggregated data by age, gender and regional differences is needed. Additionally, an in-depth study of the different approaches used by different institutions is needed. There is a need for a common monitoring and evaluation framework and a detailed analysis of the legal framework regarding institutions’ obligations to collect, process and share data.
Child abuse – a global phenomenon with clear economic consequences
Child abuse is a phenomenon that affects over 1 billion children a year. Beyond the immediate trauma inflicted and the increased levels of child mortality, it has proven demographic, health, educational, social and economic consequences. These include addictions, sexually transmitted diseases, diseases related to the reproductive, nervous, endocrine, respiratory and musculoskeletal systems, among others. Moreover, a growing body of research shows that violence against children has clear economic consequences. The economic losses range between 3.5 and 7% of global GDP, and the phenomenon is far from unique to developing countries, but also to high-income countries, where between 4 and 16% of children are physically abused annually, and around 10% are neglected.