he Dhaka Consultation was held with the purpose of developing a Regional Strategy to be presented at the Second World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children to be held in Yokohama, Japan, 17-20 December, 2001. Over 140 participants representing the Governments of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, including 25 children and young adults, and representatives of international agencies and international and national non-governmental organisations participated in the Consultation. This Strategy is an expression, of those gathered, of their commitment, and a call for action in South Asia to combat commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) and child sexual abuse (CSA).
WE, the participants, having assessed the situation, note that:
In South Asia, CSEC in the form of child
prostitution, trafficking in girls and boys for sexual purposes, sex
tourism, and child pornography are some of the prevalent forms of
child abuse. Various
forms of child sexual abuse (CSA), which are of a non-commercial
nature, also exist. Deep rooted secrecy and denial and a pervasive silence make
issues of sexual exploitation extremely complex. Data on the
magnitude and extent of these abuses is inadequate but available
figures suggest that the problem is widespread.
Most children who are sexually abused are boys and
girls between 13 and 18 years and the average age seems to be
falling. Boys and girls of the underprivileged and marginalised,
religious and ethnic minorities or caste groups, those with
disabilities, in institutional care, children in work places,
migrant children, bonded child labourer are particularly vulnerable
to sexual exploitation. Limited access to reproductive health
services, life skills and education, also increase the vulnerability
of adolescents, in particular.
With increasing rates of HIV infection in the
region, sexual abuse of children places them at increased risk of
sexually transmitted infections such as HIV/AIDS.
CSEC and CSA have serious physical and mental
health and social consequences on the child victims, which affects
them in the short, medium and long-term.
Child sexual abuse may come from within or outside
the family. Often the abuse is perpetrated by someone familiar to
and trusted by the child. Abusers
are usually men, but are sometimes boys and can also be women.
CSEC has many other actors outside the home involved but
there can also be complicity or active promotion from the family,
such as through selling children for prostitution.
Poverty, globalisation, social and gender
discrimination, and weak legislative and judicial implementation are
among the important factors for CSEC in South Asia.
Low rates of birth registrations resulting in a loss of an
official identity constrain actions against commercial sexual
Children have rights to participate in their own
protection. There are,
however, limited or no forums for listening to children and giving
them opportunities to express their views and opinions on decisions
and actions that affect them.
e the participants, recognising the situation, note that:
While poverty is an underlying cause for CSEC in
South Asia, which interacts with the making of profit from the
circumstances of the poor, it cannot be an excuse for it, and
actions can be taken to combat CSEC even in such situations.
positive cultural, religious and moral values and practices is
needed, which protect and promote the rights and the dignity of both
girls and boys, including building
partnerships with men and boys to confront the root causes of
gender inequality, violence and abuse.
While child sexual abuse is not a theme for the 2nd
World Congress, in South Asia it is crucial to address it because of
its magnitude, the serious violation of children’s rights, and
implication for CSEC.
Trafficking in girls and boys for commercial sexual
exploitation is a widely recognised abuse in South Asia.
While ensuring that the right to migration is not hindered,
efforts are being promoted to combat it, such as through the SAARC
Convention on Trafficking. These
mechanisms need regular review and revision to ensure that they are
meeting the challenge.
Girls and boys in street-based prostitution and
girls and boys living in brothels who are either victims of
commercial sexual exploitation or children of sex workers carry all
the rights of children. They
require specific rights based and child friendly actions to counter
the specific stigmatisation faced by them.
Child pornography is both a crime in itself and a
picture providing evidence of further crimes against children.
Actions to combat it require a uniform and universal
definition, reflected in legislation, establishment of specialised
‘cyber watchdogs’, training in surveillance process, and access
to information on users of internet for investigative purposes.
Profile of sexual abusers reflects a number of
factors such as attitudes towards sexuality, gender, power,
masculinity, and misconceptions about sexual health.
Sex abusers are also found to operate with impunity in
situations of complex emergencies such as war, internal conflict,
natural and man-made disasters, rapid change and social
displacement, through the internet, and in situations where men are
working away from their home. Strong
actions need to be taken against the sex perpetrators while taking
actions to support children who are exploited.
Legal reform and law enforcement is essential for
combating the demand for CSEC and CSA, which often involve many
laws exist, many violators are able to avoid them and escape
punishment. The gender
and child insensitive legal procedures, which are often lengthy and
costly, impede timely and effective actions.
e, the participants, state the following understanding and commitments:
firmly agree that all actions should be guided by the CRC principles
of non-discrimination, the best interests of the child, the
child’s right to survival and development, and respect for the
views of the child.
reaffirm our commitment to the Stockholm Agenda for Action
adopted at the First World Congress against Commercial Sexual
Exploitation of Children in 1996. We acknowledge that while several
positive steps have been taken in the region since Stockholm to
address the issue, the gravity of the problem of CSEC in South Asia
suggests that much remains to be done to fulfil the Stockholm
recognise that commercial sexual exploitation of children and child abuse goes against those positive societal values, which
uphold and promote the rights and dignity of children. CSEC and CSA is a threat to these values and requires urgent
action. We resolve to
uphold and build on the rich cultural diversity and values that
exist in our countries.
commit ourselves to applying zero tolerance against
commercial sexual exploitation of children and CSA through concerted
efforts at all levels - locally, nationally and regionally.
e, the participants, agree on the following set of strategies, which we endorse and commit to support in their implementation:
· National Plans of Action (NPAs)
Over the next two years, all the countries of South Asia should have developed NPA’s, where these are not already in place, and implement them. These plans should, through a consultative process, involving governments and civil society at all levels, including children as active participants, present clear timeframes for actions and define effective monitoring mechanisms. They should be revised on a timely basis in light of lessons learned in implementation.
Enacting Laws and Ensuring their Implementation
Appropriate and adequate laws and their effective implementation in
combating CSECCSA are fundamentally important.
Specific actions should be undertaken with respect to:
that all girls and boys under 18 should be treated as children,
with special rights as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of
the Child (CRC). All South Asian countries have ratified the CRC and
should ensure that the age of protection against CSEC and
be applied as defined in the CRC.
Development of an effective and adequate legal
line with relevant international instruments such as CRC, CEDAW and
the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime
and its protocols on smuggling of migrants and trafficking in women
and children, including revising and strengthening the existing
legal framework and enforcement measures in South Asia to protect
children, both girls and boys, in a comprehensive manner so that it
yields results, specially by:
Ensuring that legal procedures
are rights based and child friendly, kept separate from those for
adults, gender-sensitive, and provide effective trauma counseling
and care and protection in the best interests of the child;
that all births and marriages are registered;
in collaboration with other governments towards the prosecution of
foreign perpetrators in the country of the crime and in their
country of origin;
appropriate child rights training of lawyers, judges, police and
other law enforcement officials and develop appropriate guidelines
that the legal framework does not penalise child victims as
criminals and treats them humanely;
the implementation of a monitoring and accountable process both at
the national and international level; and
the legal processes and procedures.
· Urging countries of the region to sign and ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, and those countries which are members of ILO to sign the ILO Convention 182 Concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour.
To avoid the harmful effects of CSEC and CSA, short, medium and
long-term prevention strategies are essential, including:
Maximising opportunities for early child development and free
and compulsory quality primary education, and second chance learning as a means of improving children’s status, especially
girls,’ reducing gender discrimination, and empowering them.
Support gender-sensitive mass media campaigns to raise awareness about children’s rights, in general, and
CSEC and CSA in particular. Consideration
should be given to develop a code of conduct for public portrayal of
children in the media.
Build economic safety nets and invest in community-based
strengthen economic security of poor and marginalised families to
offer viable alternative sources of sustainable livelihoods,
especially for women headed households through self-help groups
ensuring empowerment and self-reliance.
· Policy advocacy for local governance structures to mainstream child protection measures for it to become the responsibility of and a core part of decentralised governance mechanisms. Support should be provided for the establishment and functioning of community-based child protection committees.
Support the victims of CSEC and CSA by actions, such as:
that every child, regardless of origin, within our borders enjoys
rights under the CRC. Through a process of bilateral, regional,
sub-regional and multilateral consultation and co-ordination those
children who have come from other countries should be assisted for
recovery and reintegration to their place of origin. This effort
should be supported through adopting simple procedures, a humane
approach, minimum of bureaucracy and more direct channels of
communication between the concerned governments and I/NGOs.
and strengthen community support services
and the provision of appropriate and quality family counselling, the
provision of equitable and non-discriminatory health services for
children who are victims of trafficking whose legal status is
dubious, addressing physical and mental health, create safe spaces,
build social accountability and provide long- term support for girl
and boy victims.
Co-ordination and Capacity Building
Work towards greater collaboration and co-ordination by:
on the Stockholm Agenda for Action and Yokohama Commitments
and supporting countries who did not attend the First World Congress
to adopt these recommendations.
regional and national focal points to support follow-up
processes after the Second World Congress and implement mechanisms
for monitoring and iity.
a process for regional actions through annual
consultations involving governments, I/NGOs, international agencies,
judicial system, and children’s organisations for examining
progress made towards the commitments, sharing good practices and
establishing mechanisms to address bilateral and multilateral
issues, especially the SAARC Convention on Trafficking.
national and regional databases, building knowledge
centres on sexual exploitation and abuse and develop qualitative and
quantitative indicators. Support should be provided for the design
of research methodologies and the implementation of studies and
action research to enable in depth assessment and analysis for
improved actions and influencing policies.
for improved national birth registration
mechanisms to ensure identity and legitimate status of girls and
the private sector in particular the computer
industry and Internet services and the tourism industry for active
partnership in implementing protection measure and regulating them,
linkages between international and national agencies,
including academic institutions, I/NGOs, and media (print,
electronic and on-line) for effective partnerships and convergent
· Building the capacity of government functionaries at all levels and other partners for effective implementation of National Plans of Actions.
Creating Partnerships with Children and Young Adults
Include children and young adults in a partnership by:
the inclusion of children and young adults in existing regional,
national and local networks, task forces and community level
processes. Include children and young adults as equal partners in
research, designing of policies, programmes and projects against ommercial
Develop age specific interventions.
Support children to form networks for interacting among
themselves and with adults. Children
should be given opportunities to express their views and concerns in
their own words through the media – print and television – and
in other relevant public forums.
Enhancing Capacity: Enhance
capacities of children and adults by learning from children’s
children’s and adults capacities to address ommercial
through raising their awareness at community level regarding child
rights. Provide children with the freedom and space necessary to
express their views and opinions and advocate them together with
other adult and child activists.
Sensitising Adults: Children
and adults together encourage and educate adults at local, national
and regional levels about children’s rights and their capabilities
to participate in decisions that affect their lives. Support
children to develop strategies and initiate follow-up actions with
children and adults in communities
Accessing Information: Inform
children about sex exploitation and abuse, for example, by preparing
child friendly versions of documents and materials related to CSECCSAfor
community level dissemination and build greater knowledge and
awareness among children through inclusion of sex education in
eyond commitments and identifying strategies, achieving
results in combating CSECwill require additional investment of resources – financial,
human and organisational. Given the urgency of the task and the
imperative of not allowing a single child, girl or boy to suffer
we agree to do our utmost to invest in children by mobilising the
required resources to meet the challenge.
Towards this goal, and in accordance with the Kathmandu
Understanding of May 2001, we call upon governments to set
targets and allocate specific additional resources, beyond those
allocated to basic social services and other social welfare
programmes, to combat CSEC and CSA. We also call upon our international development partners to
help in mobilising resources required for effective actions through
enhanced financial assistance.