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DELEGATES AGREE TO STRENGTHEN EFFORTS TO REDUCE DEMAND FOR COMMERICAL SEXUAL EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN

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Bangkok--Nov 12--UNISBKK
ECPAT INTERNATIONAL, UNESCAP, UNICEF DELEGATES AGREE TO STRENGTHEN EFFORTS TO REDUCE DEMAND FOR COMMERICAL SEXUAL EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN
Representatives from more than 20 countries meet in Bangkok to report on their governments' progress toward commitments made at the 2001 East Asia
and Pacific Regional Consultation against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of
Children

At a three-day meeting in Bangkok,   which   concluded   yesterday,   representatives   from   more than 20 countries   in   East   Asia   and   the Pacific agreed to strengthen efforts to reduce demand for the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

From   8-10 November, delegates from government and civil society as well as young   people   reported   on   a   raft   of   new   measures and improvements to existing   interventions designed to protect children from commercial sexual

exploitation,   assist   victims and punish exploiters. They noted that while
progress   had   been made, the region also confronted challenges such as new
technology,   new   victims   and   new   exploiters,   as   well as the spread of
HIV/AIDS and greater global integration.

At   the   meeting,   participants   committed   themselves   to   addressing   the behaviours,   beliefs   and   attitudes   that drive male demand for commercial sexual exploitation of children. This includes   mores   such   as

virginity-seeking   and   child   marriage   with   a   bride   price.   They   also
recognized   that   until   demand   is   reduced,   the   supply of children will
continue   and   they   called   for   more   men   to   join the fight to end this
inhumane violation of young lives.
The   meeting   was   organized   by an Inter-Agency Group comprising End Child Prostitution,   Child   Pornography   and   Trafficking   of Children for Sexual
Purposes   (ECPAT)   International,   the   United   Nations Economic and Social
Commission   for   Asia   and   the   Pacific   (UNESCAP)   and the United Nations
Children's   Fund   (UNICEF),   in   cooperation with the governments of Italy,
Japan   and   Thailand   and the NGO Group on the Convention for the Rights of
the Child, represented by the Save the Children Alliance.

Participants also considered strategies to stop the exponential rise in the supply and demand of child pornography over the internet. New technologies, including   the   internet, digital cameras and mobile phones, have increased the   spread   of   child   pornography,   the   demand   for   it and the risk for children of sexual exploitation.

National   laws   have not kept pace with these trends. Most countries in the region   do   not have laws that refer specifically to child pornography, and few   criminalize its mere possession. This means that the end user of child

pornography   is   not   regarded as a criminal, or is subject only to minimal
penalties, even though consumers of child pornography further the abuse and
exploitation   of   more children because their demand fuels the incentive to
make it.

Other efforts discussed included the world's first multi-country Memorandum of   Understanding   (MoU) against trafficking, which was signed by ministers from Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam on 29 October in   Yangon,   Myanmar.   The   MoU   covers   the prevention of trafficking; the repatriation,   rehabilitation   and   sensitive treatment of victims; and the

extradition and prosecution of exploiters.

Several   other   agreements   are being negotiated between governments in the region,   and   the   Bangkok   meeting   resulted in the initiation of positive discussions between Indonesia and   Malaysia   concerning   potential cross-border arrangements on trafficking.

Action has also been taken to address the prostitution of children within their   home   countries.   Community-based   projects   in   the Philippines and Thailand,   for example, have empowered local people, including children, to

resist   exploitation   through   greater   awareness   of   child rights and the
methods   of   exploiters.   Local monitoring systems mean that members of the
community   can   report   abuse,   while   local officials have been trained to
respond with greater sensitivity and effectiveness.

Despite this progress, a lack of reliable data remains a major hindrance to the   implementation   of   well-targeted   and   effective measures to stop the commercial   sexual   exploitation   of   children.   New   research   designed to address   this   shortcoming   and   better support the need for monitoring was also presented and discussed at the meeting.

In   Lao   PDR,   an   unprecedented government study released last month found child   trafficking   for   commercial sexual exploitation in all 17 provinces
covered.   Interviews   with   253   victims   (of   whom   60 per cent were girls
between   the   ages   of   12 and 18), their families and other key informants
found that regional economic disparities, a lack of opportunity at home and
the negative influence of the media all contribute to vulnerability.

In   the   Pacific Islands, ongoing research is revealing growing problems of commercial   sexual exploitation. In the Solomon Islands, for example, girls are   still   forced   into   early   marriages and recent violence has led to a surge   in   child rapes and in boys and girls being forced into prostitution for   economic survival. Child marriage is also a major problem in Papua New Guinea, and is a basis of demand for internal trafficking of children.

This   research   is   being   complemented   by   the   CSECInfo   database   ?   a state-of-the-art   information   management   system   that   collects   the data necessary   for   monitoring the commitments being reviewed this week ? which was developed by the Inter-Agency Group.

Young   people   were   active   throughout   the   meeting. The youth delegation presented   statements   assessing   the   situation   of   commercial   sexual exploitation of their peers and multi-level efforts to address the problem.

They   expressed   support for various actions, but they also identified many problems   and   gaps,   and urged action to address them. In particular, they
stressed that high-level policy decisions, such as cross-border agreements,
require   greater   awareness   raising   and concrete action at the grassroots
level in order to ensure positive change.
Delegates   included   representatives from Australia, Cambodia, China, Fiji, Indonesia,   Japan,   Kiribati,   the   Republic   of   Korea, Lao PDR, Malaysia,
Mongolia,   Myanmar,   New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Samoa,
the Solomon Islands, Thailand, Timor Leste, Vanuatu and Viet Nam.
For more information, please contact:
Deborah Muir, Communications Associate, ECPAT International
07 052 0671; deborahm@ecpat.net
Margaret Hanley, Information Officer, UNESCAP
02 288 1862-69; unisbkk.unescap@un.org
Robert Few, Communications Consultant, UNICEF
01 746 3048; rfew@unicef.org   End.

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