Protect children from exploitation as tourism resumes– UN expert
GENEVA (24 September 2021) – As tourism picks up after the pandemic, governments must make sure that more travel does not result in more sexual exploitation of children, a UN expert said today.
“It is essential to ensure truly sustainable, ethical and responsible tourism free from child trafficking and sexual exploitation,” Mama Fatima Singhateh, UN Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, said ahead of World Tourism Day on 27 September.
The unprecedented socioeconomic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing stark inequalities and the vulnerabilities of the most disadvantaged children, thereby amplifying the risks of exposing them to sale, sexual and labour exploitation in the context of hospitality and travel and tourism industry, both online and offline, she warned.
“Everyone has a role to play in preventing exploitation of children in travel and tourism,” Singhateh said. Governments must do more to address the root causes of socio-economic vulnerabilities of children and families. Companies, including in the hospitality and entertainment industry, must conduct human rights due diligence and provide employees with regular training on sexual exploitation of children and adopt obligatory reporting of suspected cases.
Financial resources must be allocated to civil society organizations and service providers to ensure uninterrupted access to child-friendly hotlines. Law enforcement should be given all necessary resources and capacity to ensure early detection of cases, said Singhateh.
She urged all States to sign up to the UN World Tourism Organization’s Framework Convention on Tourism Ethics and to harmonize national legislations to tackle the exploitation of children and to promote responsible and ethical tourism. This would help countries achieve the targets on ending violence against children and promoting sustainable tourism contained in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Her call was endorsed by Ms. Siobhán Mullally, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Mr. Tomoya Obokata, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences, and theWorking Group on Business and Human Rights: Mr. Surya Deva (Chairperson), Ms. Elżbieta Karska (Vice-Chairperson), Mr. Githu Muigai, Mr. Dante Pesce, and Ms. Anita Ramasastry.
September 27 is designated World Tourism Day every year to raise awareness of the need for accessible tourism; this year the day is being used to encourage sustainable tourism as a way to eradicate poverty.
Ms. Mama Fatima Singhateh (The Gambia) was appointed as the UN Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2020. She is a trained lawyer with almost 20 years of experience. Ms Singhateh has held a number of high-level positions in public service in the Gambia. She holds a master’s degree in International Business Law from the University of Hull and has undergone numerous trainings in child rights programming, arbitration and mediation, and legislative drafting. She has drafted laws, organized and conducted numerous training sessions, delivered presentations at both national and international fora and written articles and reports on issues relating to the promotion and protection of the rights of the child.
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 ae independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.
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