Rights experts call for greater global action to end child sexual exploitation and abuse
UN Costa Rica/ Danilo Mora Lilith, a 19-year-old woman, and her son fled Nicaragua after being trafficked and sexually abused.
Millions of boys and girls worldwide continue to be fall prey to these crimes, they noted, stressing the importance of healing and justice for victims and survivors.
Their appeal comes in a statement to mark the first commemoration of the World Day for the Prevention of and Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Violence.
Strive towards elimination
“Today is a reminder for States and the international community to increase public awareness of this phenomenon,” they wrote.
“This is an opportunity to eliminate all forms of child sexual exploitation, abuse and violence, both online and offline, to enhance the protection of children and to bring perpetrators of exploitation and abuse to justice.”
The experts said the current global context continues to exacerbate the situations that expose children to exploitation, abuse and violence.
Long-lasting negative impacts
Some of the major challenges today that they cited included conflicts, climate change, and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also inadequate measures to address root causes such as rising inequalities, deepening poverty, and structural discrimination.
“Child victims and survivors of such crimes can face long-lasting negative impacts on their physical, mental, and sexual health and development. Such trauma on children may even amount to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” they said.
The rights experts were particularly concerned that individuals, institutions and agencies that are meant to care for children and protect them, sometimes perpetuate the violence they suffer.
Respect and protect
For this reason, they called for governments “to substantiate the best interests of the child as well as take measures to promote physical, psychological recovery and social reintegration of child victims and survivors, in an environment which fosters the health, self-respect and dignity of the child, while addressing weaknesses in protection systems”.
Furthermore, they said the rights of child victims and survivors are often left out of the process of redressing harms and reparation, exposing them to “secondary victimization”.
They emphasized that States must therefore ensure that the views of children are heard and that their perspective is taken into consideration during the course of reparation.
Reparation for survivors
The experts added that genuine remedy for child victims and survivors would mean ensuring delivery of various forms of reparation, including restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-recurrence.
“Towards this end, States, international and regional entities, community actors including faith-based leaders, civil society organisations, and the private sector, must integrate a child-centred, trauma-informed and gender-sensitive lens while delivering reparation for child victims and survivors,” they said.
“Greater awareness of child sexual abuse, child trafficking, exploitation and violence should be a part of public health policies and programmes, including through educational institutions,” they added.
Mandated to serve
The rights experts who issued the statement were appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
As Special Rapporteurs, they are mandated to monitor and report on specific human rights concerns globally, such as the sale and sexual exploitation of children, and the causes and consequences of violence against women and girls.
Special Rapporteurs are independent of any government or organization, operate in their individual capacity, and work on a voluntary basis.
They are not UN staff and are not paid for their work.
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