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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 192
June 4, 2005

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Human Rights advocacy

Why children are victims of aggression?

Pedro B. Bernaldez

June 4 is the day the United Nations devotes to promoting efforts to care for innocent children who are victims of all forms of aggression and violence. Appalled by the great number of innocent Palestinian and Lebanese child victims of Israel's acts of aggression, on August 19, 1983 the United Nations General Assembly decided to designate June 4 of each year as the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression. It reminds people that throughout the world there are many children suffering from different forms of abuse, and there is an urgent need to protect the rights of children.

Violence has always been, and will remain, an important cause of stress for children. It is a matter of fact that violence seems to become more pervasive as the level of economic development decreases. This ratio seems to be global. The violence referred to here is not limited to that which the child is preyed on outside the home. Most often, an infinitely sad causal chain of victimisation can be perceived between the perpetrators and the victims of domestic violence.

Domestic violence is a much greater source of stress for children than the violence that children perceive outside the home, stressful as that may be. The aggressor within the home is usually a parent or a close caregiver, known intimately by the child and upon whom the child is dependent for security and "protection,'' as well as for love. The immediate effect for the child is chaos, a loss of its sheet anchor. Thus begins the perilous drifting, without trust, without security, with at best a "dangerous'' love. The child swiftly learns to repress its natural curiosity, its affection and natural reactions. And the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder appear.


Bullying is a widespread problem in schools and communities. The behaviour encompasses physical aggression, threats, teasing and harassment. Although it can lead to violence, bullying typically is not categorised with more serious forms of school violence involving weapons, vandalism or physical harm. It is, however, an unacceptable anti-social behaviour that is learned through influences in the environment, such as peer groups and the media. As such, it also can be unlearned or, better yet, prevented.

The social and physical environment in which children grow up has long been linked to their social adjustment in later life. For children, the school forms a large part of this socialising environment. In addition to their overt role in education, schools play a central role in the transmission of the norms and values, both positive and negative. One societal norm commonly acquired in the school environment is the hierarchical social organisation and the submission of some children by others through intimidation and aggression.

Of all the horrors that humankind is heir to, war is arguably the worst. It is invariably man-made and, therefore, should be avoidable. A multitude of wars of every description are being waged all over the globe at present. Children are the innocent victims of bilateral, multilateral, civil, guerrilla and ethnic warfare. Children come directly under fire; they must bear arms; they are the victims of torture, maiming, and brainwashing. Children are the helpless spectators of the death, injury, or defeat of their parents; they are the hapless part of endless migrations caused by the necessity of fleeing death and destruction. In war-torn countries, children are initiated into the whirlpool of violence and later become fighters _ or killers _ themselves.

It is self-evident that the physical survival of children must have absolute priority. Yet a great deal of attention needs to be given to the emotional well being of these children in order to avoid the many appalling psychological problems they face as well as in order to break the spiral of violence that festering emotional wounds lead to from one generation to the next.

In the climate of violence and fear wars bring about, some families manage to protect their children from the worst emotional damage that war causes. Many, if not most, however, are physically incapable of doing so. Or they are so overwhelmed by events that they are themselves in dire need of care and protection.

The same applies to the community. Some communities manage to harbour their children against the rigors of war. Others, themselves exhausted, can do little. It is then up to the national and local governments, civil sectors and the international community to provide succor.

In the very short term, it is of course a humane and moral imperative to help child victims of war in every possible way.

For those of us who wish to see war obliterated from the face of the earth, however, it may well be the height of rational self-interest, in the long term, to invest heavily in the moral and emotional well-being of the children of war, in order to eradicate as much as possible the impulses to violence and aggression implanted in them by their experiences.

Source: Korea Times.


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