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Home > NGO Group for the CRC > Thematic Subgroups > Sexual Exploitation

Subgroup on Sexual Exploitation

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The Subgroup on Sexual Exploitation aims to promote the protection of children from sexual exploitation, abuse and violence as outlined in article 34 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Through various UN mechanisms (most notably the treaty body and special rapporteurs mechanisms) and in close collaboration with other special interests groups, the subgroup plays an active role in the follow up to the Yokohama Congress and the UN Special Session on Children.

Current Issues

Sexual Exploitation and the UN Study on Violence against Children
In November of 2001 the UN General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to conduct an in-depth report on violence against children. This request followed intense lobbying from non-governmental organisations (NGOs), which built on the recommendation for such an investigation from the Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Committee made their initial recommendation after substantial NGO input at two days of general discussion on violence against children held in 2000 and 2001.

The General Assembly's request that the Secretary General conduct an in-depth inquiry into violence against children should be viewed as a unique opportunity to expose the extent of the problem and identify safeguards to better ensure protection of children from violence. For the subgroup on Sexual Exploitation against Children, it is an opportunity to ensure that the sexual abuse and exploitation of children is a core part of the study's focus.

In submissions to the Commission on Human Rights, UNICEF and national governments, NGOs have strongly supported the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) Committee's recommendations that the Study document as comprehensively as possible different types of violence against children. subgroup members have also stressed that the Study's aim should be to make violence to children visible as an essential step towards reducing and ending it, and that it should include the development of strategies to effectively prevent and combat all forms of violence against children, including sexual abuse, exploitation and violence.

The CRC Committee also recommended that the Study should cover violence against children within the family and in the home, in schools, in care or residential institutions both state and private, in work situations, in the streets, in detention facilities and prisons, and also examine violence by police and the use of capital and physical punishment. The Committee suggested that violence should include all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, including sexual abuse and bullying in schools.

For the subgroup on Sexual Exploitation against Children it is imperative that in each of these places - the home, the school, on the streets and in institutions - the nature and extent of sexual violence be exposed. Too often, sexual violence against children goes unreported and the violated children unassisted. An outcome of the study should be clear strategies which seek to prevent sexual violence against children and to assist those who are survivors of sexual abuse.

Professor Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro has been appointed by the UN as the Independent Expert to lead the Study. The subgroup on Sexual Exploitation against Children will work closely with the subgroup on Children and Violence to ensure that Professor Pinherio is informed by NGO knowledge and grassroots experience. Joint meetings between the subgroup on Sexual Exploitation against Children and the subgroup on Children and Violence are planned.

Second World Congress against the Commercia Sexual Exploitation of Children:
the Yokohama Global Commitment and follow-up activities
A total of three thousand and forty five child rights activists, including 134 governments, 25 inter-governmental agencies and 90 children, participated in the Second World Congress against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) held in Yokohama, Japan in December of 2001. This gathering represented the growing global partnership of actors concerned with accelerating action to combat the growing instance of commercial sexual exploitation of children around the world. They convened in Yokohama to review the progress made in implementation of government commitments since the first World Congress in Stockholm in 1996, to share information on new forms of CSEC and new programmes to combat it, and to outline new measures for systematic, structured, and continued action to eliminate the sexual exploitation of children, reaffirming and renewing the political commitment for follow-up through action on the Declaration and Agenda for Action to combat CSEC.

ECPAT Middle East Consultation Amman, Jordan, June 2004
A four-country consultation on the commercial sexual exploitation of children in the Middle East is being organised by ECPAT International for Amman, Jordan, next June. The meeting will bring together representatives of government and non-government organisations from Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen, as well as delegates from international agencies, to discuss forms of CSEC and ways of fighting it. Jordan, Lebanon and Syria have signed the Stockholm Declaration and Agenda for Action; Yemen has not done so.

Situation research studies to be carried out in the four countries early next year will form the basis for identifying priorities and planning for action to protect children and counter CSEC in the region. While these priorities will not be known until the research is completed, it is likely that attention will be needed in the areas of awareness raising, legal reform, care of child victims and training.

The Middle East Consultation follows on from ECPAT's North Africa Consultation in Rabat, Morocco, in June 2003, where research on CSEC in Chad, Egypt, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia was presented. The research findings helped the meeting's participants to identify major priority areas where they intend to concentrate their efforts: harmonisation of national legislation with international conventions on the protection of children, training of caregivers and law enforcement personnel, and the development of National Plans of Action against CSEC. Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia have consequently expressed interest in implementing counter-CSEC projects and ECPAT continues to provide support and advice which it expects will lead to NPAs.

The Pacific Regional Workshop on Combating Poverty and the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Youth Nadi, Fiji, September 2003
Government and civil society representatives from 12 island nations of the Pacific region met at Nadi, Fiji, in September to discuss and devise strategies on how to develop National Plans of Action to fight the commercial sexual exploitation of young people. Organised by ECPAT International, ESCAP and UNICEF EAPRO, in cooperation with Fiji's Government and UNICEF EAPRO, the ground-breaking meeting drew delegates from Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribas, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. As a result of the workshop, Cook Islands signed the Stockholm Declaration and Agenda for Action (joining Fiji, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu, who had signed previously). As well, all the participants signed statements of commitment, a personal declaration to do all that they could as individuals to try to implement positive action in their home countries to protect children and counter CSEC in all its various forms. The workshop sessions helped to prepare the delegates for seeing this commitment through, having focused on the development of strategies for devising and implementing national policies and programmes as part of National Plans of Action against CSEC.

Now, the inter-agency group has committed to supporting situation analyses in four to eight countries in the region, using a common methodology to investigate sexual abuse and exploitation of children. A Regional Consultation will follow next year.

Role of the subgroup and its Members

The Yokohama Congress was organized through the tri-partied partnership forged for the first World congress namely Government-UN-NGO. It was hosted by the government of Japan, and co-organised by UNICEF, ECPAT International and the NGO Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The subgroup on Sexual Exploitation against Children and the Focal Point Programme on Sexual Exploitation, Violence and Abuse took the lead on behalf of the NGO Group.

The Yokohama Congress process produced both a Global Commitment, and five regional governmental commitments and a North American non-governmental proposal for a regional agenda for action. These can be found on the official Congress site at www.csecworldcongress.org, or the ECPAT website, www.ecpat.org.

Members of the subgroup were instrumental in drafting both the Global Commitment and the regional documents, working alongside governments and UN agencies.

Child participation
Members of the subgroup undertook pivotal roles to ensure the meaningful participation of children both in the Congress itself as well as in a Children's Forum which preceded the Congress. The Children's Forum provided an opportunity for children to discuss and debate the issues themselves and to develop a statement to be shared with all those attending the Yokohama Congress. Regionally children were also involved in consultations and many continue to be involved through their own child-led organizations or through partnering with NGOs.

Knowledge and expertise shared
An essential part of the success of the Second World Congress, were the learnings shared through the plethora of workshops held as part of the Congress. NGOs, (many of them members of the NGO Group), UN agencies, professional affiliations, children and governments organised effective and informative sessions. The workshops provided an opportunity for exchange of learning, both programmatically but also at the policy level. In addition, workshops covered all regions and many countries, highlighting both the depth and extent of the problem but also the diversity of approach in prevention, protection and recovery. Findings from the workshops have been captured by UNICEF and can be found on the official website. www.csecworldcongress.org

The Yokohama Global Commitment (YGC) was agreed by consensus at the final session of the Congress. It demonstrates a re-affirmation of the existing Agenda for Action enhancing its text by: reinforcing the partnerships among various actors through the language of ownership used in the document, which refers to "Our Global Commitment", by underscoring closer linkages between other child rights monitoring mechanisms such as the Committee on the CRC and the Special Rapporteur, by identifying the Second World Congress as a follow up initiative and thus recognizing the effort to combat CSEC as a continuous and structured process, and by recognizing the results of the pre-Congress regional consultations and encouraging the "effective implementation" of their conclusions and recommendations to enrich the content of the follow up action of Congress.

Post Yokohama
Partners from the Congress, including members of the subgroup and their national affiliates have remained active in the follow-up process. Coordinating and being involved in regional activities as well as international events has been central. At the Special Session on Children in May 2002, the Government of Japan, UNICEF, ECPAT and the NGO Group co-organised a panel discussion on follow up activities. This year, in May 2003, the NGO Group, alongside ECPAT and UNICEF will take part in organising and undertaking three core panel discussions on various follow-up activities which have occurred at the community level and beyond. The subgroup on Sexual Exploitation against Children remains commitment to the effective implementation of the Stockholm Agenda for Action and the Yokohama Global Commitment.

Highlights

A brochure for national NGOs on international instruments and mechanisms to combat child sexual exploitation, abuse and violence
Second updated and revised edition - 2003 (first edition 1996)

  • UN instruments represent international consensus on human rights standards
  • UN mechanisms have been developed to monitor governments' implementation of the instruments they have ratified.
  • All serve to combat the many human rights abuses perpetrated throughout the world.
  • Many of them contain special measures to protect the rights of children.
  • Finally, they also offer avenues for redress in situations when national institutions have proved to be ineffectual.
  • Because a broad network of NGOs, through the NGO Group for the CRC, have developed an effective mechanism to liaise with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is particularly useful.
    All these instruments and mechanisms should be utilised. This brochure is only a beginning.

Why?
Sexual exploitation and abuse of children are not new. After several major global events in the past ten years, what might be new is a shift in public opinion to acknowledge the situation and to recognise it constitutes not only a massive violation of the rights of the victims but an unacceptable form of violence.

A new and solid body of research has also demonstrated that the consequences of child sexual abuse and violence have a far- reaching and long-lasting impact on the physical, psychological and emotional health and development of the victims. At a time when social problems are often quantified in financial terms, we can be certain that it makes economic sense to prevent first and to treat urgently if we haven't managed to prevent.

As sexual exploitation and abuse of children crosses disciplinary borders, we need to use all the tools at our disposal. Children are bought, sold, rented out, sexually abused and exploited every where. This brochure is targeting national groups and NGOs active in the field of child protection and child rights. It explains briefly how to access and use all relevant UN and instruments and mechanisms.

We hope it will prove to be a valuable tool for all practitioners, including those working in the broader areas of health, education and legal reform.

What's in it?
The brochure is divided into four sections.

  1. A brief overview on the multi-faceted aspects of sexual exploitation abuse and violence where children and youth are victims, of the linkages with a broad variety of other child protection issues and of the relevance of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international instruments.
  2. a) A description of relevant articles of the CRC and how they relate to the issue of sexual exploitation, abuse and violence; how they can be used;
    b) Descriptions of all other relevant conventions, instruments and mechanisms which can be used; how NGOs can make them work for the victims they are assisting;
    c) A summary of the outcomes of global events which have enhanced the protection of children from sexual exploitation, abuse and violence.
  3. A section containing suggestions for national groups and NGOs as well as other practitioners to help them:
    a) familiarise themselves with the United Nations system;
    b) communicate more effectively with its numerous organs and agencies;
    c) Generally enhance their effectiveness through networking with all relevant partners.
  4. An annex containing useful contact details and web sites.

Contents have been reviewed by all relevant UN agencies and NGOs with knowledge and competence of the issues covered. This brochure should be considered only as a brief and general guide.

NGOs need to keep in mind that there are also excellent regional instruments. We invite them to develop - and share with us - similar guides for the instruments relevant to their particular region to make them more accessible to their colleagues, partners and collaborators.

Finally, we hope that the information contained in this brochure can be translated into local languages and adapted for use in a national context.

Activities

Much of the subgroup on sexual exploitation work in 2001 focused on preparations for the second world congress against the commercial sexual exploitation of children, which was held last December in Yokohama Japan. During 2002 the subgroup turned its attention to producing new publications. One of the primary publications will be an updated booklet that outlines the international mechanisms, useful for combating sexual exploitation of children. Several new developments have taken place in favour of children since the first booklet was produced. Among the significant changes is Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography coming into force. A second, is the ILO Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labour coming into force and being widely ratified. Another publication will be on definition of terms commonly used in the field of sexual exploitation of children and child trafficking. This booklet will review the manner in which international institutions such as the United Nations and NGOs define terms commonly used in the field of child protection. Both are expected to be ready for distribution in 2003.

The subgroup continues monitor and actively support the role of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. The current Rapporteur is Dr. Juan Miguel Petit. De Petit has a three year mandate and will be expected to:
- do an in-depth study of the phenomenon,
- accept cases of urgent appeal and seek responses
- study the replies of governments
- visit countries to assess situations in accordance with the mandate
- submit annual reports to the Commission on Human Rights for discussion and decision for inclusion in the body of resolutions from the Commission.

Key human rights events such as the sessions of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Commission on Human Rights are monitored by the subgroup. In particular through the NGO Group Focal Point Programme on sexual exploitation, abuse and violence, the subgroup monitors national governments' attention to protection from sexual exploitation in their reports to the Committee as well as responses by the Committee. Past evidence has indicated that the degree of attention that Committee gives is related to the quality information provided by NGOs at national level, as well as the work of the Focal Point Programme.

Preparations are now underway for the 59th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights. Each year the subgroup reviews the relevant paragraphs of the Commission's resolution on child rights with the aim of including more strongly worded language to hold governments to their commitment to protecting children from sexual exploitation. The subgroup encourages national based NGOs to participate by:
- assessing how much their countries comply with the resolution on child rights
- submitting ideas on new wording for the resolution
- following up with government officials in key ministries, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to ensure that they support a strongly worded resolution.
In addition, at the 59th Session the subgroup hopes to launch their new publication on international mechanisms as well as to host a panel discussion on this topic.

Connections to the United Nations

  • Works closely with the office of the Special Rapporteur on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
  • Members regularly attend sessions of the Committee on the Rights of the Child
  • Works with UNICEF

Mandate and role of the UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography

The mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography was created by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1990. The mandate-holder, unpaid and normally working full-time in a related profession such as law or
academia, is required to investigate the exploitation of children around the world and to submit reports on the findings to the Commission on Human Rights, making recommendations for the protection of the rights of the children concerned. These recommendations are targeted primarily at Governments, other United Nations bodies and non-governmental organizations. The mandate holder is assisted by one staff member, from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The appointment has been regularly renewed, most recently in 2001, when the Commission on Human Rights decided to renew the Special Rapporteur's mandate for a further three years. Mr Juan Miguel Petit (Uruguay) was appointed to the mandate at that time.

The Special Rapporteur can be contacted as follows:
Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
c/o Office Of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations at Geneva
8-14 avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland

Fax: (+41 22) 917 90 06
Tel. (+41 22) 917 9148

History

The subgroup on sexual exploitation of children was established in the early 90s. The sexual exploitation of children is a fundamental violation of children's rights. According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, States are required to protect the child from sexual exploitation and abuse and promote physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of the child victims.

One of the earliest activities of this subgroup was to represent the NGO Group as a co-organiser of the First World Congress Against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. It sent a background paper on the Congress to all participants, including a draft declaration and agenda for action. The subgroup also prepared documents for the nine themes of the Congress and produced two publications: "Preliminary Study in the Middle East and North Africa" and "Mechanisms for use by National NGOs in the Combat against the Sexual Exploitation of Children." The objective of the Congress was to bring together a number of key stakeholders, including governments, UN agencies and NGOs in order to better protect children from commercial sexual exploitation. The Agenda was adopted unanimously by the end of the second day. Additionally, the Congress gave the NGO Group and the subgroup an opportunity to be full and equal partners.

The subgroup continued its pro-active role in the wish to maintain the momentum of the First Congress and actively engaged in follow-up activities. In preparation of the Second World Congress (SWC) in Yokohama Japan, the subgroup on Sexual Exploitation and the Focal Point Programme took primary responsibility for engagement on behalf of the NGO Group. In addition, ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking), also a member of the NGO Group and subgroup, was a co-organiser independently. Members of these three represented the NGO Group at the International Planning Committee (IPC) meetings in Japan, New York and Geneva. The subgroup, through the Focal Point Programme and in conjunction with other co-organisers (UNICEF) also helped facilitate regional NGO meetings in the lead up to the Second World Congress. Furthermore, members of the subgroup funded two of the key theme papers for the Second World Congress: "The Sex Exploiter" and "Prevention, Protection and Recovery Programmes." Overall, the Second World Congress was widely acknowledged as highly effective and successful.

Subgroup members also supported the Children's Forum, which preceded the SWC. Exhibits, side meetings and meetings with government delegations were held during the Yokohama Congress.

In addition, the subgroup attempts to educate and inform governments and civil society on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. The Commission on Human Rights decided with several abstentions to draft an Optional Protocol as an addition to existing mechanisms. Concurrently, at the time when the Optional Protocol was being drafted, the subgroup convenor organised a first meeting with the Special Rapporteur and Governments to attempt to steer the Working Group in the right direction on definitions to be included in the Optional Protocol. This was successful beyond expectations. In the technical review of 2000, it was considered a brave effort to improve the Protocol. Furthermore, the subgroup continued monitoring the protocol all the way through. They even supplied analytical statements and suggestions on behalf of the NGOG each year, both to the Commission on Human Rights and to the Working Group negotiating the Protocol.

The subgroup has also tried to develop its outreach through regional focal points and engagement in international events. The subgroup sought to engage with the Child Rights Caucus and with the Children and Violence Caucus, which both developed around the Special Session on Children. Members of the subgroup are also members of both Caucuses and worked to ensure that the issue of the sexual exploitation of children was a core focus in the Special Session.

Another substantial emphasis of the subgroup, through the Focal Point Programme, is to monitor the compliance of States to the relevant CRC articles and the Agenda of Action as submitted through reports to the CRC Committee. The FPP has submitted reports on numerous countries to the Committee and has been requested to do oral presentations on these Reports. The conclusions and findings of the Committee for the CRC are a primary focus for the subgroup.

The subgroup has also developed its collaboration with other subgroups and a regular contact among the convenors has continued. In this past year, the subgroup held several joint meetings including with with the subgroup on Child Labour, Children in Armed Conflict and Displacement and Children and Violence. Their collaboration also entails working with UN officials.

Late 2001 saw the appointment of the new Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (Dr Juan Miguel Petit). The subgroup has already met with him and is committed to fostering a strong relationship with him and his staff. In addition, the subgroup has an established association with the professional internship programme of the NGO Group Liaison Unit. In November 2002, ECPAT signed an MOU with the NGO Group/Focal Point Programme, a member of the subgroup and the European Forum on Child Welfare networks.

The subgroup on sexual exploitation of children is currently co-chaired by ECPAT International (EI) and the International Catholic Child Bureau ICCB).

Work Plans

The 2004 - 2005 Work Plan of the sub group is available here [word format]
The 2003 Work Plan is also available here [word format]


Tools

Position papers and reports

Links

Links to relevant websites as well as structures with which we work:

  • Focal Point Programme - Website currently out of action
  • Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights - Special Rapporteur and Committee on the Rights of the Child - www.unhchr.ch
  • UNICEF - www.unicef.org
  • ECPAT International - www.ecpat.org

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