ECPAT is working to end the sexual exploitation of children and make sure every child is protected. In recent years, we have noticed there is a notable gap in the global understanding of how sexual exploitation affects boys. This is not acceptable, and that’s why we launched a global initiative to explore the issue that includes generating new research evidence, undertaking advocacy, and making informed recommendations for improving prevention and response strategies in programming, policy and legislative frameworks.
This week in the International Journal of Child Abuse and Neglect, ECPAT has co-authored a peer-reviewed article with colleagues in the Canadian Institute for Health Research – TeamSV at McMaster University in Canada that:
- Presents emerging research indicating the little we know about the prevalence of boys being exploited, supporting the assertion that this is far more frequent than commonly recognized;
- Contextualises the existing research within dominant gender norms that may be masking the problem and hampering our responses;
- Describes the potential gender insensitivity of some services dealing with boys vulnerable to sexual exploitation;
- Captures some of the common limitations in approaches to supporting vulnerable boys by looking at specific contexts of high concern for male victims, such as child welfare, alternative care, justice and humanitarian settings.
The sexual exploitation of boys and the impact of harmful gender norms
Our article argues that gender-, trauma-, and violence-informed approaches need to be expanded to address the contribution of harmful gender norms and to target prevention in the adolescent years. Our article advances a pressing need for a global analysis of the situation for boys that focuses on:
- Improving research on the prevalence;
- Exploring the impact of gender norms when working to identify child victims, victim recognition, and gender biases;
- Improving services to be more gender-sensitive for boys seeking support.