Around the World

Combating Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking

The international front
At the turn of 21st century has come new hope for the fight against trafficking with the breakthrough signing of the Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime by 124 countries. The Convention includes supplementary protocols to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking of Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air. Though the treaty and protocols are yet to be universally ratified, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam have signed the Convention. Indonesia and the Philippines have signed the Protocol on Trafficking. These are major steps forward in galvanizing international concern and in closing loopholes that enabled traffickers to challenge and bypass international laws.

The focus of WOCON's work on the frontline has been to lift the veil of ignorance, to educate, retrain,improve living conditions and eliminate the causes of poverty that make children particularly vulnerable to exploitation. The prevention of child exploitation has become the cornerstone of WOCON's support in the region to combat sexual exploitation. It aims to help families and communities become the first line of protection for children. Prevention programmes are designed to educate families and the girls about the dangers of trafficking and prostitution and to provide girls with life skills and job training.

WOCON also continues to support rescue efforts and programmes to reunite children with their families and communities. And it works with partners at an international level and with governments to close the loopholes that allow the traffickers and exploiters to escape prosecution.

Rescue, recovery and reintegration

Helping children who have been sexually exploited to recover and re-enter society is a concern of WOCON. Capacity building for government and non-government organizations is being supported through training activities in counselling and social work skills. Trafficked and sexually-exploited children are extremely traumatized. They usually carry a great deal of shame and guilt about themselves and can fear returning home. Therefore it is not possible for them to be picked up by the authorities one day and dropped off in their home villages the next, they provide psychological services
as well as education, job training, health care and family counselling.

Justice for children

Sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children is illegal in countries around the world and the offenders are liable to jail terms or fines. But the commitment shown by countries to eradicate child sexual exploitation has been generally undermined by weak sanctions, legal loopholes, lack of police enforcement and court procedures that are traumatic for the child victims. A major thrust of WOCON's campaign against child sexual exploitation has been to attack the web of ignorance and community acceptance that protects the agents of the sex industry from prosecution and enables them to continue their work unchallenged. To this end, WOCON has been seeking to make local police aware of the raft of the new laws, procedures and international treaties that protect women and children.

Legal enforcement

The heavy sentence and the provision of civil redress have been subsequently hailed as a breakthrough in attempts to translate international and national government commitment to end child sexual exploitation into concrete action against the perpetrators. In the past, legal representation for child victims has been practically non-existent, as most lawyers have been trained as legal defenders, not prosecutors. Families themselves have also compromised cases, either withdrawing complaints in exchange for compensation or being ignorant of their legal rights, some simply do not know what lawyer is.