The Human Rights Monitoring Institute has submitted an alternative report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. The report draws attention to Lithuania’s situation in the light of Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which provides for the protection of the child from all forms of violence. It discusses the legal framework, strategic documents on combating violence against children, statistics and existing ways of helping children who have experienced and/or are experiencing violence.
Regarding the violations of children’s rights and domestic violence, it must be acknowledged that these violations often remain hidden, making it difficult to determine their exact prevalence. Children experiencing violence often face fear or not knowing how and where to seek help. It is worth noting that the problem goes beyond children’s difficulties in recognising acts of violence. Even some adults mistakenly consider corporal punishment to be the correct method of parenting. This misconception can rationalise, minimise or even support child abuse and violence as a form of discipline. Such attitudes can perpetuate harmful behaviour and prevent recognition of the seriousness of these actions. This lack of recognition hinders effective identification and addressing of child abuse.
Despite the importance of identifying and reporting cases of violence against children, the findings show that a significant proportion of society is reluctant to report possible violations of children’s rights. This reluctance to report can be due to a variety of factors, including fear of retaliation, lack of knowledge about reporting mechanisms, or societal indifference to the problem.
Determining whether the increased public awareness of violence against children has led to an increase in the number of reported cases, or whether the number of actual incidents has actually increased, remains a challenge. However, the statistics presented in the report certainly show that the number of such cases has increased significantly. It is important to underline the lack of essential services to help children experiencing domestic violence. This shortage is primarily due to a lack of qualified professionals, including psychologists, psychiatrists and psychotherapists, as well as the limited availability of services for people living in rural areas. In addition, many municipalities in different regions seem unwilling or unable to fully address the critical need to provide assistance to child victims and their families. They often attribute this shortcoming to a lack of specialised staff. There is also a serious lack of the skills parents need to deal with children with behavioural problems. In some cases, child abuse results from parents trying to control their child’s misbehavior or episodes of aggression and resorting to corporal punishment as a false means of control.
Inadequate and inconsistent financial support for child welfare in Lithuania highlights a number of critical issues with significant implications for child welfare. Consistently providing the same level of funding for several years in a row shows that the priority given to children’s well-being is insufficient. Given the limited resources available to address domestic violence, especially violence against children, there are limited opportunities to help as many child victims as possible. It is also worth pointing out that many organisations operate in cities, making it more difficult to reach more remote regions. More resources are therefore needed to facilitate the implementation of the measures and to create job opportunities for professionals who can improve the delivery of assistance.
The Human Rights Monitoring Institute has submitted the following conclusions to the Committee:
1. Launch a wide-ranging public education campaign to raise awareness of the harmful effects of violence and corporal punishment on children, with an emphasis on the promotion of positive parenting methods and a systematic multi-level approach based on internationally recognised models for the prevention of violence against children.
2. Prioritise an increase in the annual budget for children’s aid in Lithuania, with an immediate focus on strengthening resources to combat violence against children. This will enable the strengthening of support structures and the recruitment of qualified professionals to better assist affected children.
The report was prepared in the framework of the project “Sustainable Support for Human Rights through Advocacy and Education” supported by the Active Citizens Foundation.