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Unicef Child Sex Trafficking Must End

January 23, 2000 · 

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Published in The Manila Times
(January 23, 2000)

NATIONS must fight the greed and brutal disregard for human rights which underpin the worldwide trafficking in children and women, most often for sexual exploitation, according to United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) Executive Director Carol Bellamy.

Speaking in Tokyo at the Asia-Pacific Symposium on trafficking in Persons, the Unicef executive director said the problem was global but some of the worst forms were found in Asia, where more than a million people are being exploited each year.

“Tafficking-especially for commercial sexual exploitation-has become a worldwide, multi-billion-dollar industry,” Bellamy told representatives of governments and civil society gathered to consider strategies for dealing with the issue of boys and girls are favored targets for sexual exploitation and groups with low social standing are often the most vulnerable, such as minorities and refugees.”

Bellamy said the illicit traffic was expanding through the use of child pornography on the Internet, and low cost Internet advertising of the commercial sex trade, attracting sex tourists and pedophiles. Many of these activities are explicitly banned in national legislation and Bellamy urged governments to confront the problem through a combination of law enforcement and education to wam parents and protect children from those who would prey on them.

Globalization should benefit societies through increasing opportunities for international trade in goods and services, not by increasing the trade in human beings, Bellamy said.

“Instead we are seeing at least 10,000 girls and women entering Thailand from poorer neighboring countries and ending up in commercial sex work, she said. “We believe that five to seven thousand Nepali girls are trafficked across the border to India each year, mostly ending up as sex workers in Bombay or New Delhi.”

‘Trafficking on this level cannot escape the attention of local and national law authorities and I call on the governments of these and other countries to enforce both their national laws and to accept their obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” Bellamy said. She noted that every government in the Asia-Pacific region has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, legally binding them to protect their children from all forms of economic and sexual exploitation.

Unicef’s experience in these and other countries in Asia has shown that the effects of sexual exploitation on children are profound and may be permanent. Normal sexual, physical and emotional development is stunted. Self- esteem and confidence are undermined. Sexually exploited children are especially vulnerable to the effects of physical and verbal violence, drugs and sexually transmitted diseases.

Bellamy said there were no simple solutions. Societies must recognize that the root causes of trafficking often lie in discrimination against minorities, unequal treatment of women and girl-children, and economic policies which fail to ensure universal access to education and legal protection.

Bellamy praised Japan’s recent adoption of new laws designed to punish those involved in child prostitution and pornography, including those who abduct or traffic in children for sexual purposes. The laws also protect child victims of such abuse, and aim at educating officials and the general public about the importance of child rights.

She also noted positive movements against child trafficking in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. These include creating special bodies to protect child rights, the reform ofjuvenile justice systems, the training of police and judicial authorities and crackdowns on those who sexually exploit children.

Unicef has been actively involved in advocacy efforts in Viet Nam, Cambodia-where the National Council for Children has launched a five-year plan to fight child sexual exploitation and trafficking-and China.

UNICEF NEWS LINE

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