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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 May, 2005, 13:39 GMT 14:39 UK
Chinese child abuse 'widespread'
A Chinese child
The risk to some Chinese children has been officially acknowledged
A groundbreaking survey has revealed a pattern of widespread physical abuse of children in China.

Backed by Unicef and carried out by the All China Women's Federation, it is said to be the first scientific survey to tackle the issue in China.

Almost half of the thousands questioned said they had suffered some form of physical abuse in childhood.

Governmental support for the study meant it marked a "breakthrough moment" for China, a Unicef spokesman said.

The levels of abuse are not being described as significantly greater than in other parts of the world, but in China it has not been as documented and debated.

The official support for the survey suggests a new willingness for China to face up to social problems rather than pretending they do not exist, our correspondent says.

Many within China may also be shocked by the consequences of child abuse.

Physical punishment is commonly seen as a necessary short, sharp shock to promote discipline.

But the survey's findings showed a clear link between maltreatment in childhood and mental health problems in later life, including alcohol abuse, violence and thoughts of suicide.

Teachers targeted

The survey's organisers gathered their information through anonymous questionnaires completed by more than 3,500 university students in six provinces.

Among the abuse which close to half of the respondents reported were instances of being hit, kicked or slapped.

About one in three said they had been beaten with an object, like a stick or belt.

A minority of less than five per cent said they'd experienced multiple instances of abuse, often of a very serious nature.

Schools emerged as a key place for violence. Teachers, who command high levels of status and respect in China, are described as key perpetrators of severe physical punishment and abuse.

Sexual abuse was also covered. The survey says that "substantial numbers" of boys and even more girls suffered unwanted sexual experiences, ranging from being talked to in an obscene way to inappropriate fondling and even child rape.




SEE ALSO:
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