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UN General Assembly Sexual Exploitation of Children

The UN’s Committee on Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Issues (the Third Committee), meeting at the General Assembly in New York has been discussing the global state of  the sexual exploitation of children, among other child and human rights issues.

Marta Santos Pais, UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence Against Children, told those in attendance that half of the world’s children suffer violence, such as online and sexual abuse, and a child dies every five minutes from abuse.

She also advocated for increased investment into researching and understanding the issue – and for better funding early childhood development, citing examples of good practice – such as in Chile and Peru, where governments have recently increased investment in early childhood.

“Societies should spend money on prevention. Families are nurtured by such efforts, which in turn, visibly reduces violence.”

Sexual exploitation and abuse of  children displaced by conflicts and other humanitarian crises

Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, raised the issue of the sexual exploitation and abuse of children displaced by conflicts and other humanitarian crises:

“Governments must ensure children on the move are protected.”

De Boer-Buquicchio expressed particular concern over the plight of Rohingya refugees — a majority of whom are women and children. She highlighted an increase in the number of reported cases of Rohingya children being sold for the purposes of marriage and sexual exploitation and urged action to ensure accountability for the perpetrators.

She also said that Internet service providers can play a key role in preventing the abuse of children, while “all stakeholders” can work to prevent sexual exploitation in the travel and tourism sector. She called for cooperation between civil society and governments in efforts to acquire and share knowledge and recommended ratifying children’s rights instruments in parallel, especially the Optional Protocol.

She concluded by expressing regret over the insufficient attention paid to children’s rights, especially as related to the sale and trafficking of minors.

Member states made statements to the committee on the sexual exploitation of children

Ms. Wagner (Switzerland) said that, despite significant progress achieved in protecting children from discrimination, exclusion and inequality, millions still suffer from physical, psychological and sexual violence, with their rights constantly threatened. Citing an increase of grave violations, she called on all parties to armed conflict to respect international humanitarian law and human rights law:

“We want to create a world where children can grow up free from fear and violence.”

Myriam Oehri (Liechtenstein) highlighted the plight and vulnerability of child refugees and asylum seekers. Migrant and displaced children and adolescents are among the most vulnerable during the migration process, she said, even more so when they are unaccompanied or separated from their parents.

The Third Committee has been granted a mandate by the General Assembly to discuss a range of social, humanitarian affairs and human rights issues. This session, the committee is hearing reports from member countries and other organizations on human rights – including from the Human Rights Council, which receives reports from ECPAT.

The committee also discusses questions relating to the advancement of women, the protection of children, indigenous issues, the treatment of refugees, the promotion of fundamental freedoms through the elimination of racism and racial discrimination, and the right to self- determination.