UN rights experts urge greater global action to end child sexual exploitation, abuse

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 19 (APP): UN experts have called for intensified efforts to combat the persisting prevalence of violence, exploitation, abuse, trafficking, torture, and harmful practices against children, and stressed the importance of healing and justice for victims and survivors.

Their appeal comes in a joint statement to mark the first commemoration of the World Day for the Prevention of and Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse, and Violence, noting that millions of boys and girls worldwide continue to fall prey to these crimes.

“Today is a reminder for States and the international community to increase public awareness of this phenomenon,” they wrote.

“This is an opportunity to eliminate all forms of child sexual exploitation, abuse, and violence, both online and offline, to enhance the protection of children and to bring perpetrators of exploitation and abuse to justice.”

The experts said the current global context continues to exacerbate the situations that expose children to exploitation, abuse and violence.

Some of the major challenges today that they cited included conflicts, climate change, and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also inadequate measures to address root causes such as rising inequalities, deepening poverty, and structural discrimination.

“Child victims and survivors of such crimes can face long-lasting negative impacts on their physical, mental, and sexual health and development. Such trauma on children may even amount to torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment,” they said.

The rights experts were particularly concerned that individuals, institutions, and agencies that are meant to care for children and protect them, sometimes perpetuate the violence they suffer.

For this reason, they called for governments “to substantiate the best interests of the child as well as take measures to promote physical, psychological recovery and social reintegration of child victims and survivors, in an environment which fosters the health, self-respect and dignity of the child, while addressing weaknesses in protection systems”.

Furthermore, they said the rights of child victims and survivors are often left out of the process of redressing harm and reparation, exposing them to “secondary victimization”.

They emphasized that States must therefore ensure that the views of children are heard and that their perspective is taken into consideration during the course of reparation.

The experts added that genuine remedy for child victims and survivors would mean ensuring the delivery of various forms of reparation, including restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction, and guarantees of non-recurrence.

“Towards this end, States, international and regional entities, community actors including faith-based leaders, civil society organisations, and the private sector, must integrate a child-centered, trauma-informed and gender-sensitive lens while delivering reparation for child victims and survivors,” they said.

“Greater awareness of child sexual abuse, child trafficking, exploitation, and violence should be a part of public health policies and programmes, including through educational institutions,” they added.

The experts are: Mama Fatima Singhateh, Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children; Fabian Salvioli, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence; Tomoya Obokata, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences; Ms. Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; Reem Alsalem, Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences; Siobhán Mullally, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children; Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls.