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Pacific Children Vulnerable To Commercial Sex: Expert

Pacific Children Vulnerable To Commercial Sex: Expert
Representatives from Pacific non-governmental organisations discussing the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) during the International Civil Society Week on December 5, 2017. Photo: Kogo Fujiki
December 06
09:59 2017

As countries around the world strengthen prosecution and policies on commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), the industry could become more prevalent in the region, says an expert in the field.

“Sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism is a growing industry,” End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism (ECPAT) International Pacific representative, Sandy Thompson said.

Ms Thompson is attending the International Civil Society Week at the University of the South Pacific in Suva.

“As the Pacific grows in visibility as a place to come and as different countries such as Thailand tighten up their prosecution, what the perpetrators do is look for where it is easy to get away with what they do. So, places like small countries in the Pacific Islands become vulnerable,” she said.

New Zealand national, Ms Thompson said she had heard countless stories of CSEC prevalence in Fiji and its neighbouring countries.

“It’s here – I’ve done some education programmes in hotels in the Pacific and staff have been telling me stories,” she said.

“There’s stories of young girls on boats being kidnapped by owners and being trafficked that way.

“Everyone I talk to – someone has a story about how they have been touched.”

Four Pacific Island Countries (Fiji, Vanuatu, Nauru and Federated States of Micronesia) have strengthened their commitment in combatting CSEC by signing (but not yet ratifying) the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Optional Protocol requires states to prosecute persons that subject children and adolescents to sexual exploitation and calls for international co-ordination to address the issue. But Ms Thompson said when looking at the Pacific as a whole “it is a region that hasn’t come on board with the protocol.

“Ten Pacific countries have not signed the optional protocol yet,” she said.

“It’s a concern because it means it’s not high on the agenda of politicians.”

ECPAT International helped facilitate a discussion on CSEC at the International Civil Society Week in Suva yesterday, with experts from across the world coming together on the issue.

ECPAT began in 1990 as a campaign to “End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism” and is now a global network of civil society organisations exclusively dedicated to ending the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

Edited by Rusiate Mataika

Feedback:  kogo.fujiki@fijisun.com.fj

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