UN expert says States must step up efforts to eradicate the sale and exploitation of children

GENEVA (3 March 2020) – States must accelerate their efforts and lead a coordinated global response to eradicate the sale and sexual exploitation of children, both online and offline, said a UN expert in her last report to the Human Rights Council.

“Children continue to be sold and trafficked within their own countries and across borders for the purposes of sexual exploitation,” said Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, UN Special Rapporteur on sale and sexual exploitation of children.

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“Children are coerced into participation in pornographic performances online. Young girls and boys are lured with false promises and coerced into sex trade, domestic servitude, forced labour, begging and forced marriage.”

“The exponential growth of internet and communication technologies facilitates these abhorrent crimes at an alarming rate. Online technologies offer more secrecy and anonymity, creating a safe haven to generate, host and consume child sexual abuse material with utter impunity,” the expert said.

According to her report, national systems are largely failing to identify the young victims, provide them with adequate recovery and rehabilitation services, and bring those responsible to justice.

“This lack of accountability continues to fuel demand and perpetuates further abuses of the most vulnerable children. We have fallen short of our promises to protect children and provide them with the much needed rehabilitation services and care,” de Boer-Buquicchio said.

“Prevention is key and must start with tackling the root causes. States must address the social, cultural, gender and institutional constructs that create an environment in which the sexual exploitation of children is ignored, tolerated or accepted.”

“Child dignity cannot be an afterthought,” the UN human rights expert underscored.

Although the real magnitude of these crimes is difficult to estimate, its human and socio-economic cost should not be underestimated, warned the Special Rapporteur, who reminded that the harm done to children is enormous.

“We have come a long way to raise a better awareness of this phenomena, thanks to courageous children who, against all odds, stand up to speak and break the culture of silence nurtured by social tolerance, shame and stigma. Significant gains have also been achieved thanks to the dedication of first-line child protection officers, service providers, border police and law enforcement”.

Yet, more robust efforts, means and resources are needed for States to meet their legal obligations and political commitments under the 2030 Agenda,” the Special Rapporteur concluded.

Ms. Maud de Boer-Buquicchio (Netherlands) was appointed as UN Special Rapporteur on sale and sexual exploitation of children by the UN Human Rights Council in May 2014. She served as Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe between 2002 and 2012. Ms de Boer-Buquicchio spearheaded the adoption of the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse. She is the President of the European Federation for Missing and Exploited Children.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.