ASEAN and SAARC must put children’s rights at the heart of COVID-19 response

30 April 2020

JOINT STATEMENT: Regional leaders must put children’s rights at the heart of their fight against Coronavirus

Asian leaders must ensure that millions of children are protected from domestic violence and other forms of abuse as part of their COVID-19 response strategies, seven major international child rights agencies warned today.

The effects of the pandemic are already taking a devastating toll on children, in particular the most vulnerable, as access to education and healthcare becomes more difficult and family finances are hit hard as households lose their livelihoods and sources of income.

Self-isolation and lockdown measures also increase the risk of children, in particular girls, becoming the victims of domestic violence, online bullying or other forms of abuse. Girls are also less likely than boys to return to school when normal classes eventually resume. Many Asian countries have already reported sharp rises in domestic violence – in India and Singapore, for example, calls to domestic violence hotlines have increased dramatically. The Philippines has seen a string of humiliating and degrading punishments meted out to children and young people for breaking COVID-19 curfews.

Suci Apriani, Plan International Indonesia’s Youth Champion and Chairperson of Kediri Village Child Protection Group said: 

“During this pandemic, I have received many complaints from girls, boys, and young people about their struggles at home such as stress, exploitation, domestic violence, and child marriage. The inequality that we’ve been fighting against all these years re-resurfaced. Girls are suffering multiple layers of burden starting from difficulty studying at home, more house chores, and are becoming more vulnerable to gender and domestic violence. Boys are being sent to guard the village’s entrance, just because they are perceived to be strong, when in fact they are children who are also vulnerable. My message to all is that equality must still be maintained, especially during the pandemic”

As the 18 countries that make up ASEAN and SAARC are home to some 850 million children, their rights must be front and centre in the fight against the virus

In a joint statement today, the seven leading child rights agencies (Child Rights Coalition Asia, ChildFund, Plan International, Save the Children, SOS Children’s Villages, Terre des Hommes, and World Vision International) urge ASEAN and SAARC to ensure that child protection measures are included in the virus response.

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Joint Statement

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Emergencies, COVID-19