Arch Dis Child doi:10.1136/archdischild-2012-301648
  • Global child health

Child abuse and its legislation: the global picture

  1. Michelle Cutland
  1. Correspondence to Michelle Cutland, Community Paediatrics Department, St James University Hospital, Leeds, UK; michellecutland{at}
  • Accepted 18 March 2012
  • Published Online First 4 May 2012


Amid the high income nations the first recognisable child abuse society was founded in the late 19th century in North America, but it was a century before the first global rights-based legislation in the form of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) came into play. In isolation, international legislation is insufficient to protect children but becoming party to international law sends a clear signal to the community and stakeholders that a country is committed to ensuring child protection. Incorporating and implementing the UNCRC and other child protection based legislation on a global scale is not without difficulty and there are many obstacles to fulfilling its principles and monitoring its progress. The author reviews the global pandemic of violence against children and provides an overview of the legislation that has evolved over the last century in response to it. The author also seeks to examine some of the practical difficulties and limitations in implementing global child abuse legislation with reference to three important areas: the prohibition of violence, professional capacity enhancement, and data collection and research. The role of the paediatrician is also discussed in applying a rights-based approach to promoting global child protection.


  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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