|© UNICEF/2008/ Pirozzi|
|UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman (right) at the opening ceremony of the third World Congress Against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents.|
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, 26 November 2008 – Some 3,000 participants from more than 125 countries gathered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for last night’s opening ceremony of World Congress III Against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents.
The event, which runs from 25-28 November, is focusing on how to protect children from various types of sexual exploitation such as child marriage, the commercial sex industry, child pornography and the sexual exploitation of children on the internet. Among the opening night speakers were Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman.
Veneman reminded those in attendance that sexual exploitation is a way to assert control over others, often by men against women and children. She also noted that men need to be a big part of the solution.
Earlier in the day, Veneman met with children from Brazil who are fighting sexual exploitation in their own country. Later, she met a group of children from all over the world, and listened to their stories of sexual exploitation in their home countries.
A global reality
The sexual exploitation of children and adolescents is gaining growing visibility as a global reality. Worldwide, children are suffering from the effects of trafficking, pornography, prostitution, rape and abuse.
The opening theme of the World Congress focused on a systemic approach to protecting children from sexual exploitation.
|© UNICEF/0986/ Noorani|
|A young girl drapes her hand over the shoulder of a man she is soliciting outside a brothel in the city of Tangail, Bangladesh.|
The importance of educating children about sexual exploitation "is as important an obligation as it is to give food every day to the children so they can survive," said Brazil's President Lula during his opening remarks.
Exploitation may be increasing
Many studies in the last decade, including the recent UN Study on Violence Against Children, indicate that the sexual exploitation of children and adolescents is increasing. There is also growing evidence of criminal activity related to the trafficking of children for sexual purposes and the proliferation of exploitative imagery and other internet-related crimes.
The sexual exploitation of children is fuelled by international demand, which threatens children and adolescents of all ages, in every corner of the world.
The driving force behind the third World Congress is to make the global response more emphatic and comprehensive as this problem continues to become more complex in its manifestations and scope.
|The rape of women and children is a recognized weapon of war. A 12-year-old girl, displaced by conflict in the Darfur Region of Sudan, was raped by government soldiers.|
A worldwide response to sexual exploitation
As a key organizer of the Congress, UNICEF will join the international community to better protect children from sexual exploitation and reinforce the basic right to protection that must be guaranteed for all children.
The Brazilian Government, UNICEF and other partners involved in the Congress see it as being practical, solution-driven and innovative. It is an opportunity to broaden alliances, address new challenges and promote international cooperation for more effective prevention and response to sexual exploitation.
Setting goals to protect children
Additional organizing partners of the Congress are UNICEF, ECPAT, and the non-governmental organization 'Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child'.
Throughout the three-day event, there will be many workshops and discussions. Five panels will deal with identifying forms of commercial exploitation, developing a legal framework, adapting policies that address these issues and strengthening forms of international cooperation.
The event will result in setting important goals for how countries will fight the sexual exploitation of children and adolescents.
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