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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Children think parents have right to sell them

Children think parents have right to sell them

A high proportion of children are being abused and believe their parents have the

right to beat and sell them, new focus group research with adults and children has


The research, Comparing adults and children's perceptions of child abuse in Cambodia,

was conducted throughout 2001 and 2002 by Glenn Miles, the children at risk facilitator

at NGO Tearfund.

Miles said the study was very important "because 50 percent of the population

are children, and of those, it would seem a very high proportion are being abused

in one way or another".

He undertook focus group research with a total of 50 boys, girls, men and women in

groups of five each in a rural area in Kampot, in Phnom Penh and in the provincial

capital of Kampong Cham. He said children were generally fatalistic in their beliefs.

"The most important thing is there is a culture of violence, and both adults

and children feel that violence is a solution to violence," Miles said. "This

needs to be challenged. Adults need to be challenged that they do not have more rights

than children."

A key finding was that "most children" felt they should be beaten by a

teacher for making a mistake or being disobedient. Adults likewise believed teachers

were entitled to beat children if rules were broken. Children also said that parents

should beat their children "if they make a mistake", and parents agreed

they had the right to hit their offspring.

More alarmingly, the research also found that both parents and children believed

that parents have the right to sell their children, because they have a reciprocal

obligation to them.

Naly Pilorge, director of the human rights NGO Licadho, said the findings were a

fair reflection of attitudes, stating that people believed in reciprocal obligation

and sacrifice.

"We know that people's understanding is that a child belongs to someone and

you can do what you want with that child, so children are often subjected to different

degrees of violence," she said.

In regard to sexual abuse of a child at home, parents said it only happened to girls,

and felt that "children need to be more careful," thereby putting the emphasis

on the child rather than the adult.

Pilorge said Licadho's statistics showed high levels of abuse against children.

"This year over 60 percent of cases of child victims investigated were rape,

and 12-15 percent were physical assault," she said. "It is a significant

indicator of a serious problem in society although there needs to be a nationwide

survey done into the extent of the problem."

Miles, who presented the findings at the Royal University of Phnom Penh on November

14, said there was a severe lack of research into children's opinions.

"The research puzzle is bleak, but this research will hopefully put another

piece of the jigsaw in place to help us better understand how, why and in what way

children are abused."

Pilorge agreed that "very few studies are done according to what children say".

Miles said that focus groups were crucial to uncover issues children thought were

important before undertaking quantitative analysis. Tearfund will now carry out research

with 600-1,000 children in the provinces. That will conclude in June, 2003.



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