KINGSTON — Representative to the Organisation of American States (OAS), Dr. Joan Neil, is urging support for the slate of measures recommended by organisations, such as the United Nations, to curb the incidence of the commercial sexual exploitation of children and women.
Speaking at a recent two-day regional meeting of the Inter-American Programme for the Prevention and Eradication of Commercial Sexual Exploitation, Illegal Trafficking and Trade in Children and Adolescents, at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, Dr. Neil described commercial sexual exploitation as a “rising” form of trade and trafficking in humans, which is “more than an issue of crime or migration."
“It is an issue of human rights, a manifestation of persistent gender inequality, and the subordinate status of girls and women, globally. Around the world, the most trafficked people are women and children of low socio-economic status, with the primary form of trafficking being sex trafficking. The demand aspect of sex trafficking remains the least visible,” she contended.
Dr. Neil argued that in light of this, there is a need to determine the reasons for the incidence of commercial sexual exploitation, so as to effectively curb it. She pointed to recent research into the issue, which highlights linkages between international price fluctuations in global commodity markets, structural adjustment measures, economic development and the expansion of the commercial sex trade in developing nations.
Additionally, she said empirical studies have linked economic crises to the creation of an “informal economy” of the commercial sexual exploitation of children and women.
She explained that the impact of this illicit activity on the victims and nation, in general, include: violation of children’s basic human rights; emotional and continual trauma; deprivation of the basic needs of children; lack of opportunities to pursue activities to live free and happy lives; exposure to the risk of violence and sexually transmitted diseases; teenage pregnancies; negative effects on the child moral values; and the lowering of self esteem and sense of self worth which, in turn, limits a child’s chances of achieving full potential in life.
Among the measures, which Dr. Neil informed have been pursued to address the problem are the Declaration and Agenda for Action of the World Congress against Commercial and Sexual Exploitation of Children, convened in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1996, which called for measures to promote more effective laws and law enforcement, including extra-territorial criminal laws; and the first International Agreement in the 2000 United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime.
Additionally, she said the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has recommended a number of pragmatic measures, including the urgent conclusion of mutual assistance treaties between sending and receiving countries.
She also advised that the organisation has further urged the fast-pace formulation of new legislation to address the inadequacy of existing legislation and law enforcement to acknowledge the seriousness of human trafficking, provide protection for victims, and put in place effective sanctions and laws targeting perpetrators and organised traffickers.
Dr. Neil informed that the Inter-American Children’s Institute of the OAS has made a “very significant” contribution to research on the issue by publishing the first comprehensive analysis of child sexual exploitation in the Americas.
“These recommendations are well thought out and need the full and vigorous support of all states. Apart from the obvious negative moral and spiritual aspects of the commercial exploitation and trafficking of children, which need to be addressed directly and urgently as part of any effective framework of intervention, there remains the urgent need to address the economic situation of families and households which are in the bottom deciles of the income distribution (category) in transitional states, and which remain the quarry of this unwholesome trade and its operators,” she said.
“I speak of the fast paced implementation of alternative livelihood programmes for heads of households and the provision of a good standard of the social services, such as education and health, to their dependents. This, combined with the vigilance and commitment of a well trained police force and immigration department, committed to conducting a ferocious assault on the trade and its perpetrators, will eventually lead to the eradication of this most hateful trade in human beings,” Dr. Neil contended.
Over 30 delegates from approximately 12 regional countries attended the meeting, held under the theme: ‘Protecting Children of the Caribbean from Commercial Sexual Exploitation’.
Jointly staged by the Child Development Agency (CDA) and the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), in association with the Inter-American Children’s Institute, which co-ordinates the Inter-American Programme, the meeting facilitated dialogue and discussions by the participants to create a framework of regional co-operation and collaboration on issues pertaining to child protection, particularly relating to commercial sexual exploitation; identifying and adopting best practices; and sharing experiences.
By DOUGLAS McINTOSH, JIS Reporter