It is estimated that in the region of South East Europe, there are 2,534,900 children, out of which 455,000 are living in extreme poverty. Whether in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia or Montenegro, Roma are the poorest group of children in the region. Their social and economic isolation starts with the absence of basic documents such as birth certificates that are required to get ID cards and a proof of citizenship. The Norwegian Refugee Council, as part of the IDP Working Group, estimates that 30-35% of Roma have never been registered.
According to the draft version of the state Report on the implementation of the strategy for prevention of violence against children 2007-2010 for BiH referring to the violence against children reported from 2005 to 2008, there has been significant increase in reporting. In the same period law enforcement agencies had 3,795 reported crimes on committed violence against children. Based on the analysis there is a prevalence of physical (48%) and sexual violence (22%). It is assumed that more children are affected by sexual violence but it is still underreported.
Harmful traditional practices:
Traditionally, Roma children are exposed to child labour exploitation, they are used for begging and seen as a mean for securing resources to their families. On top of that, girls are married at an early age which is often the cause of their drop-out from school, becoming mothers as teenagers.
Children without appropriate care and children on the move:
The majority of children in institutions are so-called “social orphans”. Poverty, social marginalization, single-motherhood, chronic illness and the child’s disability are among the main reasons for placement of children in public care institutions. There is still little tradition of setting up alternatives to child institutional care (though a fostering has been supported by SCUK, SCN SEE and some other international organizations). Child institutional care or in best cases alternative family placement, has been perceived as the first rather than the last choice for vulnerable families.
There are no precise figures on the scale of child trafficking or working street children phenomena in SEE, since it is quite hidden phenomenon and not all the SEE countries have developed unique data collection systems, but it is quite worrying tendency that from transit countries, the countries in the region are (based on existing data) changing into countries of origin – since 2004 out of total number of identified and assisted trafficking victims more than 50% are minors out of which vast majority are locals.
The most urgent issues are inadequate transit/interim care centers, services and support to children identified as victims of trafficking and other forms of exploitation. The referral mechanisms for the identification, referral and treatment of children, victims of trafficking have to be improved to ensure integrative approach in addressing child trafficking.
Furthermore, many poor children are forced to leave school and work in the streets of the big cities. “We see every day small Roma children who are sent to junctions by their older friends or parents. They mustn't go home and they can't go home unless they bring the money. They are shaped from an early age to think that it is a right way to live and once they have their own children they will bring them up following the same suit.”
Since the SEE Region is still recovering from the recent armed conflicts, it is particularly concerning the growing xenophobia which is evident in The State of Children’s Rights in BiH, Serbia and Montenegro - analyses performed by Media Intelligence Agency in 2009. Hate speech is very much present by adults as well as the children particularly on line and mostly based on ethnic disputes (such as facebook support groups “let’s slaughter all the Bosniacs” or “let’s kill the Serbs” and “Destroy the gays” or against minorities such as Roma). Bearing in mind recent history in this region this verbal/virtual violence that in certain cases escalated in real life violence cases is a definite obstacle in peace and tolerance building and democratization processes in the region.
Children performing street work are identified as the most at-risk category. Just in Bosnia and Herzegovina more than a thousand of boys and girls are identified each year as victims of trafficking and/or are involved in street work and other forms of exploitation (sexual and/or labor). There were 1,022 registered child beggars registered in 2007 out of whom 75% children aged 7-16 is not included in education system, while 25% of that number cannot read nor write. 80% of those children do not have health insurance.
Since the essential driver of child labour is poverty, the rural areas are also characterized by children's work on parents’ farm or on the farms of others. This is also an area where it is difficult to detect child labour because children are classified as "helpers", but doing the same jobs as workers and are exposed to equal risk. It is difficult to give precise data on the number of children employed in agriculture.
Traditional disciplining is still in place regardless of its evident negative effects. UNICEF's “Research on Family Beliefs and Care Practices“ from 2006 showed that a significant number of parents still use corporal punishment as a means of discipline, sometimes using a rod or a stick, while almost 40% hit the child during the week preceding the interviews carried out with the purpose of research.
1.Reporting on violence increased for 50% in 2008 compared to 2007
2.Innocenti Social Monitor, UNICEF, 2006
3.Changing patterns and trends of trafficking in persons in the Balkan region, IOM July 2004
4.2007 regional research “Children Speak Out: Trafficking Risks and Resilience in South East Europe” developed by Save the Children
5.Preliminary data from the Alternative report on situation of rights of the child in BiH for 2008