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Joint press release

East Asia and Pacific region at forefront of action to counter the commercial sexual exploitation of children

Representatives from more than 20 countries meet in Bangkok to report on their governments’ progress toward commitments made at the 2001 East Asia and Pacific Regional Consultation against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

BANGKOK, 10 November, 2004 – New initiatives in East Asia and the Pacific are leading the way in combating the commercial sexual exploitation of children, according to senior government officials from across the region.

In a three-day meeting in Bangkok, which concludes today, government, civil society and youth delegates from more than 20 countries in East Asia and the Pacific have been reporting on a set of new measures and improvements to existing interventions designed to protect children from commercial sexual exploitation, assist victims and punish exploiters.

These efforts include the world’s first multi-country Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) against trafficking, which was signed by ministers from Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam on 29 October in Yangon, Myanmar. The MOU covers the prevention of trafficking; the repatriation, rehabilitation and sensitive treatment of victims; and the extradition and prosecution of exploiters. Several other MOUs are being negotiated between governments in the region.

Action has also been taken to address the prostitution of children within their home countries. Community-based projects in the Philippines and Thailand, for example, have empowered local people, including children, to resist exploitation through greater awareness of child rights and the methods of exploiters. Local monitoring systems mean that members of the community can report abuse, while local officials have been trained to respond with greater sensitivity and effectiveness.

Despite this progress, a lack of reliable data remains a major hindrance to the implementation of well-targeted and effective measures to stop the commercial sexual exploitation of children. New research designed to address this shortcoming and better support the need for monitoring was also presented and discussed at the meeting.

In Lao PDR, an unprecedented government study released last month found child trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation in all 17 provinces covered. Interviews with 253 victims (of whom 60 per cent were children), their families and other key informants found that regional economic disparities, a lack of opportunity at home and the negative influence of the media all contribute to vulnerability.

In the Pacific Islands, ongoing research is revealing growing problems of commercial sexual exploitation. In the Solomon Islands, for example, girls are still forced into early marriages and recent violence has led to a surge in child rapes and in boys and girls being forced into prostitution for economic survival. Child marriage is also a major problem in Papua New Guinea, and is a basis of demand for internal trafficking of children.

The results of such research are being fed into the CSECInfo database – a state-of-the-art information management system that collects the data necessary for monitoring the commitments being reviewed this week. The system was developed by the Inter-Agency Group, which consists of End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT) International, UNICEF and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP).

The meeting also considered strategies to stop the exponential rise in the supply and demand of child pornography over the internet. New technologies, including the internet, digital cameras and mobile phones, have increased the spread of child pornography, the demand for it and the risk for children of sexual exploitation.

National laws have not kept pace with these trends. Most countries in the region do not have laws that refer specifically to child pornography, and few criminalize its mere possession. This means that the end user of child pornography is not regarded as a criminal, or is subject only to minimal penalties, even though consumers of child pornography further the abuse and exploitation of more children because their demand fuels the incentive to make it. The need for more active identification and targeting of people who demand children for sexual purposes was a key topic of discussion at the meeting.

Young people were especially active throughout the meeting, and on Monday a youth delegation presented a statement assessing the situation of commercial sexual exploitation of their peers and multi-level efforts to address the problem. They expressed support for various actions, but they also identified many problems and gaps, and urged action to address them. In particular, they stressed that high-level policy decisions, such as cross-border agreements, require greater awareness raising and concrete action at the grassroots level in order to ensure positive change.

There will be a press conference at 12.00 on Wednesday 10 November in the UNCC Theatre, on the ground floor of the UN Conference Centre in the UN Building on Ratchadamnoen Nok.

On the panel will be:

  • Two youth representatives elected by their peers during the meeting
  • Vitit Muntarbhorn, UN Special Rapporteur
  • Anupama Rao Singh, UNICEF, Regional Director
  • Denise Ritchie, ECPAT New Zealand and Stop Demand Foundation
  • Alastair Wilkinson, UNESCAP, Regional Advisor, Social Development and Planning

Leading experts from around the world will also be present to answer questions, and a draft summary of all government progress reports will be made available.

The meeting has been organized by the Inter-Agency Group in cooperation with the governments of Italy, Japan and Thailand and the NGO Group on the Convention for the Rights of the Child, represented by the Save the Children Alliance.

Delegates expected to attend include representatives from Australia, Cambodia, China, Fiji, Indonesia, Japan, Kiribati, the Republic of Korea, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Thailand, Timor Leste, Vanuatu and Viet Nam.

For more information, please contact:

Deborah Muir, ECPAT International, 07 052 0671; deborah@ecpat.net

Margaret Hanley, UNESCAP, 02 288 1862-69; unisbkk.unescap@un.org

Robert Few, UNICEF, 01 746 3048; rfew@unicef.org




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