Police take child into care after images of apparent violence against toddler shared online

Tongan Police have placed a child in care following an investigation into images shared on Facebook this morning.

The images shared on Facebook showed what appeared to be a woman and a female toddler inside a vehicle.

Police said they began an investigation after many people contacted them regarding the images.

“The safety and security of the child was our priority,” Police said.

“We would like to make it clear the child is now in a safe place. 

“The Police investigation continues and we cannot comment further due to the sensitivity of the case.”

The photos have been widely shared on Facebook by Tongan news sharing groups. One group has so far garnered 1100 reactions, 1000 comments and 1200 shares. 

The images shared on Facebook showed what appeared to be a woman and a female toddler inside a vehicle. 

Other photos showed a headshot of a man. Some of the photos appear to show the toddler crying with a bloodied face in the company of the woman.

One of the images appeared to show the woman holding the toddler’s head while the little girl was crying.

Another image appeared to show the woman showing the child to somebody who was watching what she was doing to the toddler. 

A number of unverified and unsupported claims about the identities and motives of the people shown in the images have been made online.

These matters will form part of the Police investigation.

Violence against children

Tonga has a poor international reputation for violence against children.

According to a 2017 UNICEF report, cultural attitudes and traditions in Tonga prevent the realisation of children’s rights in several sectors. The report said community attitudes towards violence against children and corporal punishment posed particular child protection risks.

The number of complaints made to Police about the current case would appear to indicate that this is not universally true.

Nevertheless, the Global Initiative to End all Corporal Punishment of Children said in its 2020 country report on Tonga that the kingdom’s legal system  needed to be reformed to fully protect children.

“The near universal acceptance of corporal punishment in child-rearing necessitates clarity in law that no degree or kind of corporal punishment of children is lawful or acceptable, however light and whoever inflicts it,” the report said. 

“Prohibition should be enacted of all corporal punishment, including in the family home.”’

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