A rights-based approach to fighting sexual exploitation of children

The protection of children from sexual exploitation must be placed in the broader context of the promotion and protection of all children’s rights, Bacre Ndiaye, Director, the Human Rights Council and Treaties Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), tells participants of the World Congress III against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

A 14-year-old girl victim of rape stands in the doorway of a UNICEF-supported hospital in the town of Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, where she waits to be examined by doctors. © UNICEF/ HQ05-1243/Roger LeMoyneAs an indication of the seriousness of the problem, a draft outcome document of the Congress says that the international community is “deeply concerned at the continuing high level of sexual exploitation of children” in countries in all regions of the world, particularly through the increased use of the Internet, other new technologies, and the increased mobility of perpetrators in travel and tourism.

The document further points out the “increased vulnerability of children to sexual exploitation resulting from a growth in poverty, social inequality, exclusion, environmental degradation, HIV/AIDS, situations of natural disaster, emergency and violence.”

The Congress, which runs from 25 to 28 November, aims to mobilize all countries to take action to protect the rights of children and adolescents, especially to protect them from all forms of sexual exploitation.

“Children are tired of being told they are the future. They want to see us fulfill our promises in the present, and enjoy their right to be protected from violence today,” says Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Independent Expert for the United Nations Secretary-General Study on Violence against Children.

Through its active participation in the Congress, OHCHR emphasizes the importance of a human rights-based approach to combating sexual exploitation of children. A comprehensive approach to protect all the rights of the child is necessary in order to eradicate sexual exploitation of children.

United Nations human rights mechanisms, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and its Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, other human rights treaties and their monitoring bodies, and a number of special procedures under the Human Rights Council, play an important role in fighting child sexual exploitation.

OHCHR encourages all human rights mechanisms to devote consistent attention to issues of violence against children, including sexual exploitation. The Congress will provide further benchmarks for assessing the performance of governments in protecting children from sexual violence.

Three thousands representatives from over 150 countries will take part in the Congress, among them 300 adolescent participants. The Congress is organized by the Government of Brazil in cooperation with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT), a global network of organizations and individuals, and the NGO Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

November 2008