Kathmandu / New York, 5 January 2002 - UNICEF today welcomed the signing of two important conventions on the trafficking of women and children and child welfare by seven South Asian nations. Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka signed the conventions this week at a summit of South Asian leaders in Kathmandu, Nepal.
UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy congratulated the South Asian leaders for addressing children's and women's issues at a time when their nations are grappling with the dual threats of war and terrorism in the region. She welcomed their commitment and said that lasting peace and stability could not be achieved without respect for human rights, including the full rights of children and women.
The trafficking of children and women for sexual exploitation is on the increase in South Asia - a result of poverty, deeply-rooted social and gender discrimination, weak legislation and spotty enforcement. The conventions signed this week by South Asian Heads of State and Government deplore the "evil of trafficking in women and children" as a "violation of basic human rights."
Now that they have signed them, UNICEF urged the governments of South Asia to ratify the conventions, as well as the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, which so far has been signed Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan, and ratified by Bangladesh alone.
Each country must also take immediate steps to strengthen regional co-operation to effectively implement both conventions, UNICEF said. Most South Asian countries already have detailed national plans of action to combat sexual trafficking, but follow-through has been less thorough.
"It is now time to act," said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Kul Gautam, who is attending the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation) Summit. "Now that every leader has signed these conventions, community groups and the media must be vigilant in holding governments accountable. Perpetrators must be challenged and their impunity stopped."
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For further information, please contact:
Alfred Ironside, UNICEF New York, +1 212 326 7261
Robert Tyabji, UNICEF-ROSA, Kathmandu, +97-1-417082