Children with disabilities experience disturbing levels of violence, study finds

by Plan International | planglobal | Plan International
Thursday, 16 June 2016 16:59 GMT

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

(LONDON, UK) – CHILDREN with disabilities, living in Malawi and Uganda, are experiencing extremely high levels of violence, compared to those without. In fact, 84% of children with disabilities reported having experienced some form of violence at school in the previous week, reveals new study from Plan International, Protect Us!

According to Aidan Leavy, Plan International’s Inclusion Specialist:

“Children with disabilities are perceived to be worth less than other children, and are viewed as ‘easy targets’. They may not be able to run away, call for help or tell someone about what has happened to them, leaving them more vulnerable to violence and abuse.”

The situation is often more challenging for girls with disabilities, who were more likely to report emotional and sexual violence than girls without disabilities. In fact, the study showed that girls with disabilities were significantly more likely to report sexual violence by school staff (4% of those surveyed) than girls without disabilities (0.8%).

According to the study, children with disabilities find it difficult to access help when they experience violence. They lack information about where to go, find it physically difficult to get there, are not be able to communicate with child protection staff or volunteers, or fear they will not be taken seriously.

A mother of a 14-year-old boy, who has an intellectual impairment, said: “People beat him up. Sometimes he comes back home crying and with bruises on his face, his body swollen from the beatings. He goes straight to bed and cries himself to sleep… If he was able to speak, he would be able to point out who does those things to him.”

It is critical protection measures are put place, says Leavy.

“The specific barriers facing children with disabilities which continue to hinder them from getting help, must be addressed through the combined efforts of governments, organisations such as Plan International, disabled persons organisations and community groups,” he says.

“Children with disabilities deserve to be heard and it is crucial to continue to listen to children with different types of impairments to learn more about the violence they experience and how it can best be prevented. We have an opportunity and an obligation to address and respond to violence against children with disabilities.”

Plan International is calling on governments to ensure child protection services are accessible to all children with disabilities. In addition, civil society organisations must develop targeted programmes to prevent and respond to violence against children with disabilities, as well as ensure concrete steps are taken to make sure mainstream child protection programmes are accessible and inclusive.

The report, commissioned by Plan International and carried out by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 2015 and 2016, combines analysis of quantitative data from the Good Schools Study, a study on violence in schools in Uganda, and qualitative research from Malawi and Uganda on access to child protection for children with disabilities.

ENDS

The report is available at https://plan-international.org/protect-us. Spokespeople from Plan International are also available for comment and interview requests. For further details, please contact:

London: Angela Singh, Global Press Officer
Mobile: +44 (0) 7773 636 180
Email: angela.singh@plan-international.org

Notes to editors:
Plan International’s report, Protect Us!, will be launched at the Conference of State Parties of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as part of the side event: ‘Ending violence against children and adolescents with disabilities’ on June 16 2016.