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UNICEF calls for coordinated efforts to end sexual abuse and commercial exploitation of children

Dhaka 29 March 2011: UNICEF calls for coordinated efforts to end both sexual abuse and commercial exploitation of children as child sexual abuse is widely ignored compared to commercial sexual exploitation and child trafficking.

Speakers urged to distinguish between ‘child sexual abuse’, ‘exploitation’ ‘trafficking’ today at the launching ceremony of the study report on “Sexual Abuse and Commercial Exploitation of children: Elements for National Strategy and Plan of Action” The report was launched by the Home Minister Advocate Sahara Khatun  as the chief guest at the Spectra Convention Centre, Gulshan today.

Among others, Michel Saint-Lot, Deputy Representative, Rose-Anne Papavero, Chief, Child Protection section of UNICEF spoke on the occasion. Therese Blanchet, consultant who conducted the study, also gave a brief presentation on the findings of the study.

The study stressed the need to recognize the long lasting and devastating consequences of sexual abuse for the victim family and society. The study reveals that greater attention is given to ‘manage’ the dishonor and minimize social consequences while little support is offered to the traumatized person who is expected to silence her pain.

This document also exposes the serious issue of sexual abuse of boys which has failed to be properly recognized in the past. Efforts should be made to increase the number of prosecutions for sexual abuse of girls. Laws exist but the application is difficult.
 
“We need to break this cycle! We need to speak out and ensure the immediate care and protection of these vulnerable children. I know it is not easy but we need to make an extra effort and start thinking differently,” says Michel Saint-Lot, Deputy Representative of UNICEF Bangladesh at the occasion. “We must ensure that holistic support is given to the victim so that he/she can recover from his/her trauma and lead a healthy and productive life,” he added.

This publication looks at the various ways in which sexual abuse and exploitation are currently present in Bangladeshi society, examines the consequences of such activity and evaluates existing response mechanisms. It also reviews the 2002 National Plan of Action to Combat Child Sexual Abuse, Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking, assesses progress on implementation and identifies specific gaps. The focus is on sexual abuse and commercial sexual exploitation; trafficking is addressed in a separate exercise.
 
The real-life stories featured in the study highlight the devastating long term impacts of sexual abuse on victims (both boys and girls), their families and society at large. 43 per cent of the girls found engaging in prostitution had been sexually abused before joining the trade. The ‘slippery slope’ imagined from sexual abuse to prostitution to trafficking suggests a moral descent. Alarmingly, it also shows that boys are becoming frequent clients of prostitutes.
 
The report recommended to introduce sex education in schools to prevent sexual abuse, stressed the need for strengthen employers’ responsibilities to prevent sexual abuse in the workplace and increased outreach/identification by qualified social workers and emergency night shelters for street children. Girls and adolescents engaged in prostitutions should be carefully looked at to improve ways to ‘recover’ and ‘reintegrate’ them back into the society .This should be reviewed keeping in mind the respect they deserve and their right to participate in their own protection.

The study made it clear that sexual abuse of children and their exploitation in prostitution derives from deep structural/societal problems coming from relationships between adults and children and how gender and sex are understood in a society of socio-economic inequality. This needs to be dealt with together with existing but limited interventions dealing with child victims of sexual abuse and exploitation.

About UNICEF
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org

For further information, please contact:
Arifa S. Sharmin, Communication Manager, Communication and Information Section 9336701-10 Ext 7021  assharmin@unicef.org

Iftikhar Ahmed Chowdhury, Communication Officer, Communication and Information Section 9336701-10 Ext 7028  iachowdhury@unicef.org

 

 

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