Region's governments urged to push through tough anti-child sex measures
By Indra Nadchatram
KUALA LUMPUR, 21 August 2008 – Exploitation of our most vulnerable citizens - children - remain a pressing issue for governments and people of East Asia and Pacific, despite some progress in recent years to tackle sexual abuse.
This unfortunately was the distressing message that echoed throughout the East Asia Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting for the World Congress III against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents held in Bangkok recently.
"Progress has been made but the fact is that East Asia and the Pacific continue to be hot spots where large numbers of children are exploited," highlighted the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Regional Director for East Asia and the Pacific, Ms. Anupama Rao Singh.
“The region's governments need to take their anti-exploitation efforts to another level and push through much tougher anti-child sex measures," Ms. Rao Singh urged.
Mitigating the many dimensions of child exploitation
The two-day meeting deliberated on a set of time-bound goals and targets to mitigate child prostitution, trafficking, cyber crimes and abuse in travel and tourism.
It was led by UNICEF, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) as well as ECPAT International, an NGO focused on ending child prostitution, pornography and trafficking,
According to ECPAT International, troubling and exploitative violations against children’s rights are so widespread it affects nations across the world.
"All countries are affected by these issues in various ways and there is no one approach that suits all," shared the organisation’s Chairperson Amihan Abueva. “For example, despite the focus being on tourists from abroad, we should highlight that the majority of the offenders are local men."
Strengthening protection for children
The Meeting’s recommendations will feed into the upcoming World Congress III that will take place in Rio de Janeiro from 25-28 November.
These include both targeted interventions as well as holistic measures to strengthen protection for children, particularly those mired in poverty and victims of abuse and exploitation:
Using legal instruments to protect children
ESCAP Deputy Executive Secretary Mr. Shigeru Mochida stressed that tools at hand must be wielded with courage to protect children, uphold their rights, and criminalise abusers as appropriate.
"While acts of commercial sexual exploitation are acts of violence as well as violations of human rights, they are not always treated as crimes," said Mr. Shigeru. “The need to criminalise such acts is stressed in all legal instruments and agendas for action on the commercial sexual exploitation of children."
Hundreds of experts and government officials from around the region attended the meeting.
Standing tall amongst them were young people, some victims of abuse and exploitation, who actively participated in discussions, sharing their views and contributing to key recommendations related to the protection of their peers.