Recent coverage of the epidemic of violence in the Philippines has exposed the current Presidency of Rodrigo Duterte as a ruthless governing entity à la Adolf Hitler and the National Socialists. Yet lost amid the coverage of political assassinations, death squads, and the systematic cleansing of drug addicts, is the rampant abuse of children.

A recent ABS-CBN interview with Lotta Swylander of Unicef Philippines highlights the results of a Unicef report on child abuse in the Philippines. The three-year study, conducted by over 200 researchers on 4,000 children across all socio-economic backgrounds, indicated “very high” levels of violence against children.

Some key components of the findings:

1) 3 out of every 5 children experience real physical violence

2) 1 out of every 10 children experience sexual violence in the home

3) 26% of boys have been sexually abused by a family member

The impact of this violence on children’s ability to access quality education is immeasurable. A great deal of research suggests that such abuse has a strong negative impact on children’s psycho-social development. Furthermore, educators cannot expect victims of psychological, physical, and sexual abuse to be adequately prepared to learn in school. The report does little to uncover the causes for such dramatic numbers of abuse but points to strict cultural concepts of discipline and the belief that a child is the property of a parent.

The lack of basic rights for Filipino children is made even clearer by the government’s near abandonment of approximately 1.8 million disadvantaged children. An LA Times article, published shortly after the Unicef report, estimates that millions of children are being abandoned by a government who fails to design policy to provide basic needs for children who have been abandoned or neglected. The article outlines the complex and bureaucratic adoption process that deters hopeful parents, the horrid conditions of their orphanages (likening them to concentration camps), and the lack of educational opportunities afforded to disadvantaged children.

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A child in the ‘Smokey Mountain’ slums of Manila. Source: Sab, Just One Way Ticket

Although the articles draw upon vastly different themes, they share a similar critique: The Filipino government is making little effort to improve the profoundly debilitating treatment of children and safeguard their most basic of human rights. Widespread violence and neglect have left children of all backgrounds in a subordinate and powerless position while perpetuating the discriminatory cultural perception of children as “property” of their parents. The Philippines need to initiate a fundamental overhaul of their policies to protect and to provide for their children. If the current administration has no intentions of doing so, international intervention is a moral imperative.

References:

ABS-CBN News.‘Very high’ levels of violence against children in PH: UNICEF exec.  May 3, 2016. Retrieved from http://news.abs-cbn.com/nation/05/03/16/very-high-levels-of-violence-against-children-in-ph-unicef-exec

Kaiman, J. & de Leon, S. The Philippines has 1.8 million abandoned children. Heres what keeps many from adoption. LA Times. May 28, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-philippines-orphans-adv-snap-story.html

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