Sexual exploitation of children: Global response urged to increasingly global crime

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GENEVA (13 March 2014) – Children are more at risk of being sexually exploited or sold than ever, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Najat Maalla M’jid, has warned, urging a global response to crimes that are increasing in an interconnected world.

“Millions of girls and boys worldwide are victims of sexual exploitation, even though this issue in recent years has gained increased visibility,” the expert said during the presentation of her final report* to the UN Human Rights Council.

“The availability of child pornography online is growing. Child victims of online sexual exploitation are younger and younger, and the images are more and more horrific,” said Ms Maalla M’jid, whose report reflects on her six-year tenure as UN Special Rapporteur and provides an overview of the main issues and trends relating to her mandate.

The UN independent expert warned that certain forms of sexual exploitation are increasing: sale and trafficking of children for sexual purposes and economic exploitation, child sex tourism and online child sexual exploitation. But she noted that the true scope of the problem is not clear due to inadequate legislation, lack of reliable data, and under-reporting.

“The clandestine nature of such exploitation, the fear of reprisals and stigmatisation, as well as the lack of child-sensitive complaints mechanisms, also hamper our understanding of these crimes,” she said.

Various factors increase children’s vulnerability, the Special Rapporteur said, including social tolerance and impunity, persistent demand and global criminal networks profiting from the increasingly lucrative trade in exploiting children.  

“The ongoing development of new technologies has made access to children in all parts of the world easier and increased exploitation,” she said. “The destinations for child sex tourism are continually changing, as perpetrators tend to choose countries with weak legislation and controls.”

“All these crimes have serious and long-lasting physical, psychological and social effects, not only for the girls and boys who are the direct victims, but also for their families and communities,” Ms. Maalla M’jid stressed. However, she noted that the impact on victims is not sufficiently understood and taken into account when addressing recovery, remedies and compensation.

“Despite significant efforts and reiterated global commitments, much still needs to be done to protect, rehabilitate and reintegrate victims, provide reparation to children for the damage they have suffered, sanction those responsible, change certain social norms, and to ultimately prevent such exploitation,” she said.

Ms. Maalla M’jid urged the international community to establish a global response, through a global legal framework and sustainable transnational co-operation, to prevent and combat these evolving crimes. In addition, she called for close co-operation with the private sector, and for strong corporate social responsibility among internet service providers, telecommunications, tourism and travel industry, media and financial institutions.

“Children must also be involved in assessing the scale of the problem and developing solutions,” she added.

“As the world reflects on universal development goals for the post-2015 era, bearing in mind the strong connections between economic, social, and political development and child protection issues, child-sensitive protection must be included in the Post-2015 Development Agenda,” the Special Rapporteur concluded.

(*) Read the full report by the Special Rapporteur: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session25/Pages/ListReports.aspx or http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Children/Pages/AnnualReports.aspx

Najat Maalla M’jid was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography in May 2008 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Children/Pages/ChildrenIndex.aspx

The Convention on the Rights of the Child: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CRC.aspx

The three Optional Protocols:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/OPSCCRC.aspxhttp://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/OPACCRC.aspx / http://treaties.un.org/doc/source/signature/2012/CTC_4-11d.pdf

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