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Thematic reports

A/HRC/46/31: Impact of coronavirus disease on different manifestations of sale and sexual exploitation of children - Report of the Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, including child prostitution, child pornography and other child sexual abuse material


22 January 2021

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In the present report, the Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, including child prostitution, child pornography and other child sexual abuse material, Mama Fatima Singhateh, focuses on the impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic on increased risk and various manifestations of sale and sexual exploitation of children. The Special Rapporteur outlines the push and pull factors, protection challenges and good practices, and provides recommendations on measures to address the heightened risks of sale and sexual exploitation of children, both online and offline, during and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis and the ensuing lockdowns.

Key findings and recommendations

The following recommendations were suggested in the report for States and other stakeholders to consider;

In order to effectively prevent and combat the sale and sexual exploitation of children, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting socioeconomic crisis, the Special Rapporteur invites all States to accelerate efforts to achieve comprehensive and child rights-centred protection systems, and to support and promote a coordinated global response to eradicate the sale and sexual exploitation of children.

At the national level

Governments have an obligation to put in place a robust, rights-based child protection system. This should be in place before disaster strikes in order to prevent or mitigate the increased risks of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of children in times of national emergency or a public health crisis.

Data collection is essential for tracking the impact of any emergency situation. There is therefore a need for systematic data collection and analysis on the impact of COVID-19, in order to understand and track the phenomenon, which would in turn inform decision-making.

Governments and relevant authorities must develop rapid assessment tools to evaluate the impact of the pandemic on essential services for victims, as well as on law enforcement and justice capacities. They should ensure child-centred, integrated, individualized trauma-informed support for suspected and identified child victims.

Children must be actively involved in the decision-making process in the development of any national strategy on mitigation, recovery and reintegration measures for the prevention of sale and sexual exploitation of children.

Child participation must therefore be institutionalized and included as a process. It must be a core and cross-cutting component of a comprehensive, context-specific, rights-based child protection system in compliance with international standards and norms.

As the pandemic eases, resources should be focused on supporting family-based and community-based programmes and services in order to reduce family separation for children, including those whose parents are unable to care for them as a result of the economic impact of the pandemic, or who find themselves orphaned as a result of the death of a parent from the disease.

Governments should also consider the establishment of a multisectoral and participatory national-level coordinating agency with the capacity to identify priorities, allocate roles and responsibilities and make commitments to contribute resources for targeted interventions for children as we ease out of this pandemic.

During the provision of necessary support to families and children, Governments and development partners must work closely with community-based NGOs to ensure that targeted cash transfer programmes are extended to those who are most vulnerable and in greater need of support.

Community-based NGOs that work with and support child-abuse victims and survivors and those at risk should also be considered as essential workers. This would ensure that children at risk or victims are accessed and provided with the necessary support.

At the international level

The international community, including United Nations agencies, donor organizations and States, should provide technical and financial support to States that lack the capacity and resources to fulfil their obligations to uphold and protect the rights of children. Steps should also be taken to ensure the multisectoral integration of child protection as a core element of humanitarian response, data collection, capacitybuilding, coordination and advocacy. It is critical that due diligence be exercised in the recruitment and training of relevant personnel.

During the pandemic, economic sanctions and other coercive measures imposed upon some States should be relaxed to enable them to commit adequate resources for measures that would protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse.

Regarding corporate social responsibility

States should ensure that private companies put in place effective online child protection mechanisms. A more robust collaboration between private industry and law enforcement authorities is key to ensuring early detection of cases and the effective blocking and removal of child sexual exploitation material online. Such operations require dedicated and trained police forces to monitor the encrypted paedophile networks, lawfully access retained IP addresses to secure evidence, and engage with the relevant overseas companies and enforcement agencies while strictly following international human rights law.

Cooperation between States, international and national organizations, and associations

All stakeholders must work together to identify and support intersectoral coordination of the allocation of roles and responsibilities for child protection issues from the earliest stages of the emergency. Steps should be taken to ensure that information exchange and coordination mechanisms are established and strengthened before emergencies occur.

All stakeholders must ensure that their policy and programmatic activities are regularly reviewed and in full compliance with the guidelines and standards established by international organizations and inter-agency initiatives in relation to child protection in times of emergency, so as to ensure that their systems and practices do not, even inadvertently, heighten the risks faced by children.

Protection must be deliberately integrated into the early design and implementation of assistance programmes and extensive attention must be paid to policy, threats, risks, community assets, practice, capacity-building and effective monitoring and reporting.

The formulation of cooperation agreements among States and with participating organizations should be encouraged, in order to ensure a timely, rapid response and effective coordination of activities and assistance in the event of an emergency or crisis.

Issued By:

Special Rapporteur on the sale, sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children

Delivered To:

the Human Rights Council at its 46th session