Children Rights are Human Rights!

Sexual violence against children which is a violation of human rights of children has come to the fore following the incidents recently reflected in the press. Expressing hatred and reprimand against the perpetrators, many people from footballers, singers etc. to the leader of opposition party, the Prime Minister and to the President expressed that there is a need for more severe punishments like emasculation and even death penalty to eliminate this inhumane treatment towards children. The Parliament (Grand National Assembly of Turkey – TBMM) has decided to establish a research commission for this matter once again.

Putting on the agenda the subject of sexual violence causing deep, heavy and hardly reparable marks on the lives of children by the whole segments of the society is a very important and positive development for the children and for their human rights. However, unfortunately, the way of expressing this problem and the suggestions for resolving it have some deficiencies regarding the human rights of children.

Sexual violence against children which becomes a current issue from time to time according to its level of severity is not a subject that can only be resolved with the punishment of the perpetrators. In addition, it is not a kind of violence which can be prevented with an approach that holds children responsible such as the trainings towards teaching them not to allow any other one to touch their “private parts”.

Sexual abuse against children is a type of violence. This means that it is about the adults misusing their strength on the children and domination on them. The most important reason of this misuse is about the perception of the society and the state about children. In Turkey, children are accepted as a “part” of the parents, as their prominence and even possession and considered as the weak “creatures” in need of protection. Children whose existence are considered valuable only in the future, are becoming oppressed in every relationship they have with the adults. This situation causes them to be vulnerable to all kind of violence.

As long as children are not considered as individuals having rights and freedoms, not regarded as the equal partners of life and the ones having potential not only in the future but now, they will be exposed to sexual violence even though the perpetrators are punished with the most severe punishments.

We, therefore, want to remind that the sexual violence incidences against children which we follow from the media are considered only with the matter of punishment to be imposed on the perpetrators as it was in the past; that this approach causes no positive changes in the lives of children even if creating awareness in the public and that causes the society to forget the incident until the next one occurs.

We, once more, would like to share our assessments and suggestions with media and public for turning this topical agenda into an efficient opportunity with regard to the human rights of children:

  • Child abuse is a kind of violence. Sexual abuse of children/sexual violence against children is the result of the dominance and misuse of power and strength on children.
  • The responsibility of preventing all kind of sexual violence against children belongs to the State according to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to which Turkey is a party. But the State deals with this responsibility with a reactive and punitive approach only in the incidents causing public unrest and does not establish any effective policies.
  • Media has great importancein bringing these sexual violence incidents into agenda. But, how media approaches these incidents determines how society approaches them.
  • In the incidents of sexual violence against children, not the preventive studies and policies but the subsequentpunishments are elaborated
  • The way of producing an effective solution towards the violations on the human rights of children is to produce the solutions together with children. As the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child declares, the comments of the children who, themselves, are proficient on their rights should be represented in the policies on the prevention of sexual violence against children.

As stated before by the Gündem Çocuk Derneği (Agenda: Child Association), which worked on the rights of children but terminated as part of State of Emergency, we reiterate the urgent activities to be accomplished for eliminating violence against children:

  • To establish effective, easily accessible, trustworthy and right-based application mechanisms for children and, hence, to strengthen them.
  • To increase the level of knowledge and awareness of the parents and the experts working with children on this subject and to plan studies enhancing right-based approaches and attitudes.
  • To state in the laws that all kind of violence against children is crime and to ensure the whole society to adopt that there is an obligation of notification on this subject.
  • To ensure the punishment of the incidents of sexual violence against children regardless of the reasonand to develop a right-based approach for the judiciary members on child abuse.
  • To establish a preventive, effective and right-based children protection system and to create a right-based monitoring mechanism to follow the effects of this system.

More generally, to protect and develop children’s rights;

  1. A Specialized Commission on Children’s Rights should be established in the Parliament, and children and NGO’s working on children should participate in this Commission.
  2. Basic Law on Children Rights should urgently be taken to agenda and be enacted as a complete law.
  3. A children data-base should be composed, and children together with the NGOs working on children rights should participate in every decision-making processes on children.
  4. A national action plan should be prepared and put into force with the participation of the NGOs to create an entire children rights’ awareness in the public institutions and to prevent all kind of violence against children.
  5. The sensitivity on the violations of children rights in social sphere should also be shown to the ones under public responsibility and control.
  6. All kind of risk factors providing basis for violence and sexual abuse in all segments of life should be determined with scientific studies and preventive policies should be established with democratic participation.

Unfortunately, so long as these measures are not developed rapidly, we know that this subject will be off the agenda till a similar desperate incident.

Therefore, we call on the State to develop effective and right-based policies with the participation of the children and of the organizations and researchers working on this issue by making the terminated non-governmental organizations conducting right-based works on children rights active again.