Child Exploitation, Creative Prevention, Advocacy and Healing

Le Collectif des Femmes Africaines du Hainaut organised a panel discussion called “Child Exploitation, Creative Prevention, Advocacy and Healing”, which was held at the UN Human Rights Council on 7 March 2014 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The panelists first emphasised how child exploitation is prominent all over the world and is irrespective of religion, family, social status, neighbourhood, education or nationality. Accepting this helps raise awareness on the commonality of the issue and helps to dispel the stereotype that only marginalised groups are affected.

Dr. Ariel King, ECOSOC Representative, shared the story of how her daughter, Ariana-Leilani King-Pfeiffer, was sexually abused by Ariana’s father and is now diagnosed with a rare blood disease. Her story resonates with GWI, which promotes a violence-free family life and the protection of children from domestic abuse.

Lorella Bertani, Esq., who is a legal advocate in child trafficking and pornography, urged to dismiss the common belief that women are usually raped by strangers. In fact, 90 per cent of women who are raped know the perpetrators. GWI also advocates for the legal and social recognition that rape is possible within marriage and should be considered a criminal offense.

Neha Premjee, an AFI Youth Leader, explained that 1.2 million people are trafficked every year. GWI is against trafficking and works to ensure combatting it is a priority for governments. Premjee narrated the story of a young girl from Nepal who was deceived about a job opportunity in Mumbai. When she arrived, she was abused and sold as a prostitute. GWI works to provide support services and funding to help women to earn a living free from prostitution. It also recognises that globalisation has led to an increase in child exploitation, especially in developing countries. This tragic story is relevant to the organisation’s interest in ending the inequalities women and girls face due to the demands exacerbated by globalisation.

Temitope, Young Leader of End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT), explained how children keep returning to the trafficker because they do not have anyone else to support them. Bharti Patel, CEO of ECPAT, said every victim needs a guardian to turn to for guidance.

The other types of child abuse were explained by Dr. Adebisi Adebayo, Manager of the Inter African Committee. She said during conflict and war, women are abducted and taken as weapons of war to punish the opposite party. Child marriage is also a form of exploitation, and families may marry off their daughters for a bride price or because of social pressures from their community. GWI believes child marriage is a human rights violation, causing girls to curtail their education and preventing them from reaching their full potential.

Child exploitation perpetuates gender inequality, according to Dr. Adebayo, because the female victims are unable to negotiate and are held in the power of men. In cases of child marriage, it can lead to early pregnancy and maternal and infant mortality.

Dr. Adebayo also stressed how child exploitation can lead to reduced educational opportunities and lead to a vicious cycle. Without education, the victim has not acquired any skills to allow her to be employed, so she is economically disadvantaged. Education can help prevent child exploitation through raising awareness; it can also play a role in damage control, through helping victims rebuild their lives by attending school.

Panelists agreed that punishing the perpetrators is an important component of reaching a solution. Patel urged for the prosecution of the offenders and the need to protect victims by compensating them for their suffering. GWI urges governments to assist authorities in recognising all forms of domestic violence and holding criminals accountable.

Nilay Tuncok

March 10, 2014