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Press Release

UNICEF Hails Entry Into Force of Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography

NEW YORK, 23 October 2001 - A major step forward in the protection of children from exploitation, trafficking and sexual abuse has just been achieved, UNICEF stated today, welcoming the imminent entry into force of the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. With the submission of Romania's tenth ratification last Thursday, the Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child will become a legally binding instrument on the 18th January 2002. This three month interval is in accordance with the procedures outlined in the Protocol.


• Official Yokohama web site

•UNICEF's pages on commerical sexual exploitation

UNICEF estimates that one million children, mainly girls, are forced into the multi-billion dollar commercial sex trade every year. These children are often lured with promises of an education or a "good job. Girls appear to be forced into the sex industry at increasingly younger ages partly as a result of the mistaken belief that younger girls are unlikely to be infected with HIV/AIDS virus.

It is often very difficult for these children to seek help, not just because of their young age, but because they have no birth certificates or official documents and are therefore "invisible".

Yokohama Press releases

Child prostitution, child pornography and the sale of children occurs within countries and reaches across country borders, with perpetrators and victims in both industrialized and developing countries. "It is therefore essential that governments urgently commit to implement the standards of the Optional Protocol and work together to ensure that no child is again forced into this cruel trade" said UNICEF Executive Director, Ms. Bellamy.

Once ratified and translated into national law, the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography places responsibility squarely with the adults involved in these activities, criminalizing these violations of children's rights. It also calls for measures towards increased public awareness and international co-operation in efforts to combat them.

Ms. Bellamy congratulated the first ten countries ratifying this treaty (Andorra, Bangladesh, Cuba, Iceland, Kazakhstan, Panama, Sierra Leone, Norway, Morocco and Romania) and called upon all states to swiftly move to making this same commitment to their children.

"At this time, a total of 69 countries have signed the Protocol and still need to proceed to ratification. It would be a marvelous testimony of our commitment to children if this Protocol were to enjoy overwhelming support before the Second World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children to be held in Yokohama, Japan in December this year," Bellamy said.

"An end to the exploitation of children can only be achieved if all States and international actors commit to fight together," Bellamy added. "UNICEF strongly encourages the eradication of this violent trade through prevention programmes and concerted action against perpetrators. This must remain a pressing priority on the international agenda".

For further information, please contact:

Jehane Sedky-Lavandero, UNICEF Media, New York
e-mail: jsedky@unicef.org (212) 326 - 7269

Press releases on sexual exploitation: