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Sexual abuse and exploitation of children in the entertainment industry must stop immediately: UN expert

05 March 2024

Urgent action is needed to intensify individual and collective efforts to combat the sexual abuse and exploitation of children in various media and aspects of the entertainment industry, a UN expert said today.

“The sexual abuse and the exploitation of children within the entertainment industry resulting from unethical systems, structures, practices or abuse of power and authority, is widespread,” said Mama Fatima Singhateh, the UN Special Rapporteur on sale and sexual exploitation of children.

In her report to the Human Rights Council, Singhateh stressed that while movements such as "Me Too" have raised awareness of incidents of sexual abuse and exploitation in the entertainment industry, testimonies from brave victims and survivors have consistently pointed to the urgent need for improved protection for children and young people in the sector, and raised vital questions about the inadequacy of existing prevention and protection measures, accountability systems and access to justice.

“A significant number of abuse cases go unreported, mainly due to the prevailing power dynamics, harmful gender norms, fear of retaliation and loss of career opportunities,” the expert said. “These factors often create an environment in which individuals in positions of authority exploit vulnerable children, including aspiring actors and performers.”

The Special Rapporteur found that predatory sexual behaviour, including grooming, was accepted as the norm in the entertainment industry, as perpetrators often faced no repercussions for unlawfully exercising power and authority over young and aspiring child performers.

“Abusive work conditions and portrayal of sexual abuse and exploitation of children in various entertainment platforms do not only tend to cross the line, but also objectify and instrumentalise children,” Singhateh said. “Victims and survivors have been met with silence, non-acknowledgement, lack of investigation, duress, intimidation or non-availability of reparation measures.”

The expert called for pathways to mitigate risks and ensure that the involvement of children in the entertainment industry, and the conduct of individuals or businesses within the sector, are in line with international human rights law and standards.

“Rigorously implementing a zero-tolerance policy for those who exploit and foster abusive environments against children within legal frameworks, as well as establishing partnerships with business owners to ensure child-safe business models, creating oversight and accountability procedures, implementing technical safeguards for online spaces and fostering multi-stakeholder collaboration, are some of the many ways to ensure the health, safety, privacy and well-being of children within the industry,” the Special Rapporteur said.

Singhateh presented findings from her country visits to the Philippines (2022) and Uruguay (2023) to the Human Rights Council.

*Ms. Mama Fatima Singhateh (The Gambia) was appointed as the UN Special Rapporteur on sale and sexual exploitation of children by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2020. She is a trained lawyer with over 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 are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

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