Swedish Ambassador to Zimbabwe Sofia Calltorp

By Sofia Calltorp

The prevention of domestic violence and Gender Based Violence (GBV) is recognised internationally as a human rights concern. Myriad records in the annals of history attest that women and children are often the last ones to be given equal legal protection from discrimination and violence – a protection that the rest of society take for granted.

It is extraordinary that children, whose developmental state make them particularly vulnerable to physical and psychological harm, suffer from less protection against assaults on their fragile bodies and minds. Children and young people are not and must not be taken as objects – they are right-holders that should be listened to and given the opportunity of shaping their own future.

Sweden is a living testimony that protecting and investing in our people, including children, has immensely contributed to our economic development and progress. As early as 1890, the renowned Swedish author Ellen Key wrote about children’s rights and advocated for the abolishment of corporal punishment. At an early stage Sweden put legal frameworks to protect children and has one of the world’s oldest and most comprehensive social protection policies. Sweden’s experience has showed that investing in the poor and vulnerable section of society, is an investment for a better economic development and social cohesion. Advancing the rights of our children, therefore, is an investment for the next generation. 

Sweden uses a Rights Based Approach to Child Protection, ensuring that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is adhered to at all times. There are several studies that establish that domestic violence has a negative impact on children’s psycho-social development and that violence generates violence to the next generation – perpetuating a vicious cycle of violence, poverty and vulnerability.

Zimbabwe is signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination on all forms of Discrimination against Women which both stress the absolute importance of a good family environment and the need for community support to parents in crisis. The conventions also establish that women and children have the same rights as the rest of the members of society and should be protected from all forms of violence. The State and its relevant arms take responsibility to upholding these rights.

In 2016, the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children published analysis of more than 50 years research and found out that children who are spanked are more likely to defy their parents, develop mental health problems and show antisocial behaviour and aggression. Most countries in Europe have introduced a ban on spanking. Corporal punishment of children is a violation of their rights to human dignity and physical integrity.

The widespread presence of spanking and other forms of violence against children violates a child’s right to equal protection under the law. There is growing progress towards universal prohibition of the most common forms of violence against children: 53 states have prohibited all corporal punishment of children, including within the family.

All State and non-state actors are obliged to provide children with the security and freedom from violence as their inalienable right. Making this vision a reality demands dedication and courage from all adults, parents, teachers, neighbours, relatives and the rest of society. As an old African proverb states: It takes a village to raise a child.

The Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and its 17 goals, adopted by all 193 UN Member States outlines our common vision for people and the planet. As we strive to achieve the global goals, we need to ensure that no one – no child – is left behind.

The principal challenges of the SDGs are to deliver quality and universal healthcare, quality education and gender equality. Other key issues include ending violence against children and gender-based violence; building peaceful and inclusive societies; decreasing inequality, and environmental protection to ensure global sustainability.

Gender equality, as a goal and as enabler puts the criticality of empowerment of girls and women on the overall growth and development by harnessing the participation of over 50 percent of the society on equal measure.

Sweden stands ready to work with all our partners in Zimbabwe to support efforts in ending corporal punishment, gender based violence and to achieve full protection of the rights of the children and women in the country.

 Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.

*Sofia Calltorp is the Ambassador of Sweden to the Republic of Zimbabwe.