Stopped at a traffic light at an intersection in İstanbul, has the question ever crossed your mind, as a malnourished, poorly clothed young child tries to clean your windshield or sell you tissues, why children suffer from poverty, homelessness, abuse, neglect, preventable diseases, unequal access to education and justice systems that do not recognize their special needs?
In my column “Developments in the area of child abuse and neglect” (Sept. 7, 2012) I promised readers to write more about Turkey, which is one of the countries in transition in terms of these issues, and its status in developing programs to help abused and neglected children. This past week, the International Congress on Child Abuse and Neglect (XIX. ISPCAN) was held in İstanbul’s Harbiye neighborhood. The problems described above are ones that occur both in industrialized and developing countries. At the conference I had the privilege to meet some Turkish medical doctors, educators, social workers, lawyers and government workers, along with many international professionals, who have mutual concerns and carry burdens regarding this grave global problem. The conference provided an excellent opportunity for participants to network and exchange ideas and share their visions.
The conference was organized by IPSCAN and the Turkish Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (TSPCAN). The latter is relatively new -- founded in 1988. A major achievement of the TSPCAN has been to introduce and embrace a multi-disciplinary approach to the problem. In Turkey, this has been unheard of until recently. You can read more about this organization at http://ispcan2012.org/tr/about_tspcan.asp.
Professor Figen Şahin, who Works at Gazi University Child Protection Center and serves as vice president of TSPCAN, claims that child abuse and neglect (CAN) is a very important issue in Turkey because of the diagnosing difficulties and lack of data. The difficulty in Turkey is that research is performed regionally and is not standardized.
I was shocked to learn that there are only seven child protection centers in the country. Specialized CAN work is presently only being conducted in 12 provinces. But it was not that long ago that such centers and work did not exist at all, so there has been progress.
Along with UNICEF and other NGOs, individuals are doing all they can to develop child abuse care centers and to find solutions for CAN that are also culturally appropriate in each country.
UNICEF outlines in detail on its website the human rights of the child. It is hard to believe that while the United Nations set a common standard on human rights with the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, legislation and policy concerning CAN is much more recent.
Also hard to understand is why young children continue to work on the streets or in backstreet factories rather than attending schools and being educated so they can have a better future. If you are unfamiliar with the ideas stated in the framework of children’s rights and human rights, you can read the full details on the UNICEF website. In short, the Convention on the Rights of the Child sets out the rights of children to develop their full potential, and to live free from hunger and want, neglect and abuse. It reflects a new vision of the child. Children are neither the property of their parents nor helpless objects of charity. They are human beings, and are entitled to their own rights. The convention offers a vision of the child as an individual and as a member of a family and community, with rights and responsibilities appropriate to his or her age and stage of development. By recognizing children’s rights in this way, the convention firmly places the focus on the whole child.
Protecting children from abuse, violence, neglect and exploitation is a challenge for all of us, ranging from governments to communities, organizations and institutions to families.
In my next piece I will write about issues some children face in Turkey. I will close with this thought:
“One child abused, one too many!” -- Child Dignity Foundation (Lagos, Nigeria)
Note: Charlotte McPherson is the author of “Culture Smart: Turkey” 2005. Please keep your questions and observations coming: I want to ensure this column is a help to you, Today’s Zaman’s readers. Email: [email protected]