NEW YORK (27 October 2010) – During her two week mission to the United States of America, which included meetings and visits in New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, New Orleans and Atlanta, the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Ms. Najat Maalla M’jid, met with numerous governmental representatives at the federal, state and local level, with non-governmental organisations, and visited programmes and centres, specializing in child victims and children at risk. She also welcomed the opportunity to meet with these children.
All interlocutors agreed on the growing availability of child pornography on the Internet; victims tend to be ever younger and the images ever more violent. They further highlighted the persistence of child prostitution, principally involving girls. Nevertheless, it is difficult to conclude whether the increasing number of reported cases of these phenomena is due to a veritable increase, or rather due to better detection of such cases. The true scope of sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography remains difficult to assess mainly due to the absence of a standardized and centralized information system.
Due to the federal strategy to combat human trafficking at the international and national level, criminal networks have been dismantled, traffickers, perpetrators and sexual tourists have been arrested and convicted, with strong sanctions, thousands of child victims have been identified and have benefited from victim assistance and reintegration programs.
Nevertheless, significant challenges remain regarding the protection of children under 18 living in the United States who are sexually exploited in prostitution. These children continue to be arrested, charged and detained, not only because of the law, but also because of the lack of sustainable and safe alternatives to detention.
The Special Rapporteur insists on the decriminalization of children under 18 victims of prostitution, who must have access to child centered and comprehensive care. During meetings, child victims expressed the need on the one hand, for accessible child sensitive counseling, complaint and reporting mechanisms, and on the other, for sustainable support to empower them to re-build their future.
Given the multi-dimensional and complex root causes of these phenomena, awareness-raising campaigns are not enough. Effective prevention must include stronger support to communities and families, working on social perceptions, addressing the situation of children at risk, and tackling the demand for sex with children, particularly the roles of buyers, intermediaries and traffickers.
Given the cross border nature of these phenomena, international cooperation must be reinforced. Similarly, the responsibility of the private sector, such as electronic service providers, social networking sites, telecommunications companies, transportation companies, travel and tourism, and the media, must be further engaged.
The efficiency of strategies and programmes undertaken by numerous actors at all levels can be improved through better coordination and allocation of resources. In this regard, the Special Rapporteur welcomes the adoption of the National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction, but encourages the United States to ensure the evaluation and monitoring of its implementation.
Ms. Najat Maalla M’jid (Morocco) was appointed Special Rapporteur on the sale of children in May 2008. She is independent from any government or organization. Ms. Maalla M’jid is a member of the Commission on the Rights of the Child of the Moroccan Consultative Council on Human Rights, and the founder of the non-governmental organization BAYTI, the first programme addressing the situation of children living in the street in Morocco.
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