Child Protection

Special Protection

Prevention of Child Abuse


ILO and UNICEF reveal tolerance towards sexual exploitation of children in the DR

© UNICEF RD/ L.E. González/ 2009

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.-  A study entitled “Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Minors in Central America, Panama and the Dominican Republic. Second Social Tolerance Study. Analysis of results, challenges and recommendations” was recently presented at United Nations House.

This study includes analysis of data from a survey on social tolerance towards offences of commercial sexual exploitation of children and adolescents, which was conducted in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and the Dominican Republic in 2008.

In her introductory speech, UNICEF Representative Françoise Gruloos-Ackermans stressed that “we are here today to tell you that mistreatment, abuse and commercial sexual exploitation of children and adolescents is a real problem and there are high levels of tolerance towards this in the Dominican Republic”.

According to the study, some 95% of the people questioned in the region are aware of the existence of sexual exploitation. A total of 28.1% of people surveyed said they knew of places where “sexual services” by minors were on offer.

However, in cases where they knew that an adult was paying for sex with an underage boy or girl, 24.8% said that they wouldn’t do anything, but 18% affirmed they would report the minor, even though the latter had not committed any offence. About 45% said they would report the exploiter/client.

The main reason people gave for saying that they “wouldn’t do anything” if they knew a victim of sexual exploitation was a lack of trust in the judicial system.

© UNICEF RD/ L.E. González/ 2009

Social Responsibility
IPEC-ILO coordinator Elias Dinzey said that “The law (136-03) is not enough; there should be a concern for drawing up information campaigns to raise public awareness about the level of vulnerability of children and adolescents”.

In 2008, most of the Dominicans surveyed (66%) said they believed that the victim’s family should be responsible for stopping commercial sexual exploitation, 23% said it should be the government and 7% said it should be the procurers or pimps. An indication of development would be if everyone would recognise that state institutions are also responsible for tackling the problem. Nonetheless, the main people responsible are the exploiters and the pimps who continue to remain unnoticed. Only 5% at regional level think they are responsible.

The study ends with a broad range of recommendations for the education and health sectors, the police, the judicial sector, the trade union and business sectors, the tourism and hotel sector, as well as the communications media.

“We have to work together to end the social tolerance that exists towards this offence, which is becoming so common that it is beginning to be seen as normal. We must stop accusing minors of being responsible for seduction: they are the victims, there should be no confusion here”, stated Gruloos-Ackermans.

A culture of reporting the people who are truly responsible for commercial sexual exploitation needs to be promoted. Clearer and more specific information must be provided for this goal so that the general public is able to identify the real criminals, or more precisely, sexual exploiters.

ILO-IPEC project officer Dabeyda Agramonte believes that the problem is that there is a demand for sexual services from minors, and that “where there is demand, there will be supply”.

UNICEF’s Public Policy and Child Protection Officer María Elena Asuad said that there is a great level of mistrust in the system in this country, because there is a huge gap between what the authorities say and what they actually do in practice. She also announced the imminent launch of a study into the incidence of abuse and sexual exploitation of children, which will involve seeking information from institutions in the Children and Adolescents Rights Protection system as well as from other social actors that work with this sector of the population.

Awareness of the offence of “sexual exploitation”:

Guatemala – 93.6%
El Salvador – 92.2%
Honduras – 95.5%
Nicaragua – 96.7%
Costa Rica – 97.2%
Panama – 96%
Dominican Republic – 94.2%

Who would they report in the case of commercial sexual exploitation, according to country:

Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Dominican Republic

The exploiter/client    The minor offering services
Pimps and intermediaries   No one

Opinions about the causes of the problem

Poverty of the victim’s family - 28.1%
Lack of education, vagrancy of underage victims -15.7%
Moral values of victim and his/her family – 21.1%
Lack of laws – 17.3%
People soliciting – 3.4%
Lack of policies – 9.3%
Sexual exploiters, pimps and intermediaries 3.6%
Others – 1.5%



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