Where global solutions are shaped for you | News & Media | HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE WITH THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON THE SALE AND SEXUAL EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN

For the latest from UN Geneva, visit www.ungeneva.org.
This site is no longer updated (except for the Disarmament section) as we transition to the new site.

ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE WITH THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON THE SALE AND SEXUAL EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN

Concludes Interactive Dialogues with the Special Rapporteurs on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and on Freedom of Religion or Belief
3 March 2020

The Human Rights Council this morning held an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, Maud de Boer-Buquicchio. The Council also concluded its interactive dialogues with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Catalina Devandas, and with the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of religion or belief, Ahmed Shaheed.

Ms. De Boer-Buquicchio said she presented her sixth and last report with a mixed sense of accomplishment, frustration and a glimmer of hope. Accomplishment because in the face of such evil, she had explored the underlying root causes and the new manifestations of these abhorrent crimes and made recommendations on how to prevent and eradicate them. Frustration because the persistence of sale and sexual exploitation of children made this mandate as relevant as ever. Yet there was hope because of courageous children who stood up to speak and break the silence and the wall of ignorance, and because of the commitment and dedication of thousands of first-line child protection officers and law enforcement officers who were faced with the plight of child victims. Finally, hope because States were stepping up efforts to protect the rights of children, to provide them with care and recovery services and access to justice. However, more needed to be done. The Special Rapporteur also spoke of her country visit to Bulgaria.

Bulgaria took the floor as the country concerned.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers said patriarchal structures must be eradicated as they were a fundamental factor driving the demand for the sexual exploitation of girls. Vulnerability to sexual exploitation could be exacerbated by multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, and power imbalances between children and adults in institutions. The global conjecture of the rapid evolution of new technologies, massive migration flows, armed conflicts and humanitarian crises, as well as the deepening of poverty and inequalities, accentuated traditional forms of exploitation, such as prostitution and early marriage, as well as online sexual exploitation. It was unacceptable that information and communication technologies had become an alarming facilitator for the sexual exploitation of children. Speakers underlined that comprehensive sexuality education was indispensable to ensure that victims of sexual exploitation and violence were equipped with the means to claim their rights.

Speaking on the sale and sexual exploitation of children were Estonia (on behalf of Nordic and Baltic countries), Costa Rica (on behalf of a group of countries), Pakistan (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), Burkina Faso (on behalf of African Group), European Union, United Nations Children’s Fund, Sovereign Order of Malta, Australia, Libya, Burkina Faso, Cuba, Togo, Botswana, Liechtenstein, Iraq, Belarus, Philippines, France, Hungary, Italy, India, Netherlands, Lesotho, Malaysia, Chile, United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Sudan, Ireland, Montenegro, Egypt, Greece, Russian Federation, Uruguay, Syria, Spain, Iran, Venezuela, Thailand, Algeria, Indonesia, Albania, Cameroon, Senegal, Jamaica, China, Nepal, Georgia, Belgium, United Kingdom, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Pakistan, Malta and Armenia.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Catalina Devandas. A summary of the first part of the discussion held on Friday, 28 February, can be read here.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers regretted that some States were proudly claiming to be “eradicating” certain forms of disability. Persons living with a disability lived a life worth living and they must be ensured inherent dignity, as recognized by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Inclusive education was one of the strongest tools for combatting “ableism” and it had to become the primary avenue by which persons with disabilities could obtain the means to participate fully in their communities. Likewise, awareness raising and dissemination were crucial in empowering persons with disabilities, as it was clear that the lack of awareness and empathy was what perpetuated discrimination against them.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities were : Algeria, Bulgaria, Indonesia, Albania, Maldives, Paraguay, Malta, Cameroon, Senegal, Jamaica, Venezuela, Nepal, Peru, United Kingdom, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Georgia, Poland, Guyana, Finland, Marshall Islands, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Barbados and Cyprus.

Also taking the floor were the following national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations : New Zealand Human Rights Commission, National Human Rights Council of Morocco, Action Canada for Population and Development, International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, Alliance Defending Freedom, Association pour l’Intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi, Associazione Comunità Papa Giovanni XXIII, Federation for Women and Family Planning, Synergie Feminine pour la Paix et le Développement Durable, Women’s International Democratic Federation, China Society for Human Rights Studies, and iuvenutum e.V.

The Council also concluded its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of religion or belief, Ahmed Shaheed. A summary of the first part of the discussion held on Monday, 2 March, can be found here.

In the discussion, speakers shared concern that freedom of religion or belief continued to be severely violated in many countries, and that gender-based violence was grounded in different religious justifications. Gender-based violence had to be combatted, even in cases when it was justified in the name of religion. Girls, women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons were systematically disadvantaged by religious rulings, which were often encoded in State legislation, such as family laws. Too often culture, religion or tradition were used to undermine equality and human rights of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons. The right to freedom of religion or belief was not a special right that allowed discrimination against others, speakers noted.

Taking the floor were the following civil society organizations : Human Rights Law Centre, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, American Civil Liberties Union, World Evangelical Alliance, Federatie van Nederlandse Verenigingen tot Integratie Van Homoseksualiteit – COC Nederland, Franciscans International, Centre for Inquiry, International Humanist and Ethical Union, and British Humanist Association.

The meetings of the forty-third regular session of the Human Rights Council can be followed on the webcast of UN Web TV

The Council will next meet today at 3 p.m. to conclude its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children. It is then scheduled to hold an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The beginning of the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities can be found here.

Discussion with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Speakers thanked the Special Rapporteur for her remarkable tenure and the devoted work that she carried out to the benefit of persons with disabilities over the past six years. It was regretful that some States were proudly claiming to be “eradicating” certain forms of disability. Persons living with a disability lived a life worth living and they must be endowed with inherent dignity, as was recognized by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Support was expressed for the recommendation from the report that inclusive education was one of the strongest tools for combatting ableism and that it had to become the primary avenue by which persons with disabilities could obtain the means to participate fully in their communities. States outlined concrete measures which were taken to promote and ensure the rights of persons with disabilities, including legislative changes, policies and conducive measures as well as building accessible infrastructure and providing affordable services. The Rapporteur was asked about concrete steps that States could take in strengthening the role of the education system to promote a shift of paradigm to change the way that persons with disabilities were perceived and to move from the medical model to the human rights model of disability. A question was also asked on whether there were examples of community-based awareness raising strategies to meet the obligations of article 8 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. What challenges were foreseen in assisting States to implement reforms that would lead to recognition and acceptance of disability as part of human diversity?

The report highlighted challenges in public discourse between “liberal eugenics” and acceptance of diversity and addressed the critical crossover between bioethics and disability. Often this intersection could be literally of life-or-death importance, taking into account selective abortion on the grounds of disability. In certain European States, up to 90 per cent of children prenatally diagnosed with Down’s syndrome were aborted. Awareness raising and dissemination were crucial in empowering persons with disabilities, as it was the lack of awareness and empathy that perpetuated discrimination. All States were urged to ensure equity and move away from the concept of ableism and speakers affirmed that a complete cultural transformation was needed to value the human diversity of persons with disabilities. The challenges of small island developing States in fulfilling the obligations from the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities were listed, as these were the unique obstacles faced in implementing legislative and policy frameworks, due to a lack of human, financial and technical capacity. The Council was urged to provide greater assistance to small island developing States. Barriers faced by forcibly displaced persons with disabilities were flagged. Persons with disabilities were at particular risk of human rights violations in displacement and their plight needed greater visibility, since they faced barriers to accessing protection and assistance and were often excluded from education and opportunities to work. The Rapporteur was also asked how technical assistance and an exchange of technology could contribute to improving financing, programme design and implementation of social protection and support services for persons living with disability.

Concluding Remarks by the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

CATALINA DEVANDAS, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, thanked the participants in the discussion for having flagged the challenges that persons with disabilities continued to face. Many efforts had been made to move forward with the implementation of the Convention, namely when it came to legal capacity, banning of experimentation, and social inclusion policies. The Special Rapporteur further underlined the intersection of sexual and reproductive rights and the rights of women with disabilities. She called on Member States to review her recommendations outlined in the report when it came to combatting “ableism” and negative perceptions of disability. She emphasized that all the discussions about bioethics should be carried out within the framework of human rights, and in full respect of all human rights. That was pivotal. She recalled that when in her report she spoke of combatting “ableism,” she was not talking about limiting the rights of women. However, the idea that life should be the best possible experience was often communicated through the prism of “ableism” and could lead to eugenics.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Religion or Belief

The beginning of the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief can be found here.

Discussion with the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Religion or Belief

Speakers shared concern that freedom of religion or belief continued to be severely violated by many countries. The report provided insights on the issue of freedom of religion and gender and the different situations in which gender-based violence was grounded in different religious justifications. Gender-based violence had to be combatted, even in cases when it was justified in the name of religion. Girls, women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons were systematically disadvantaged by religious rulings, which were often encoded in State legislation, such as family laws. Whether it was harmful traditional practices, denial of reproductive services or the criminalization of same-sex relations, it was too often that culture, religion or tradition were used to undermine equality and human rights of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. The report raised the issue of the legal imposition of restrictive dress codes and States were called upon to uphold the right to freedom of religion or belief. The report was commended for being grounded in experiences of diverse actors, religious and non-religious, from across all regions. Freedom of religion or belief and non-discrimination had to be two mutually reinforcing rights. States were called on to protect the rights of all women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.

Concern was voiced at the report’s suggestion that religious individuals were engaging in harmful conduct by supporting policies that limited apportion. The report also appeared to question the right to conscientious objections by health-care providers and institutions unwilling to perform abortions. All States were called on to recognize the legal right to conscientious objection for health care professionals, related to the performance of or participation in abortion. The report also addressed the mistreatment of nonbelievers and especially of outspoken atheists as well as proponents of a separation of State and religious entities. Such individuals continued to be unfairly prosecuted by numerous countries and were not sufficiently protected by authorities from attacks by religious terrorist groups. The right to freedom of religion or belief was not a special right that allowed discrimination against others, to use it that way would mean to distort the right itself. The Rapporteur was thanked for his work in promoting a universalist and intersectional understanding of freedom of religion or belief, thereby protecting the integrity of the right itself and all rights bearers.

Concluding Remarks by the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Religion or Belief

AHMED SHAHEED, Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of religion or belief, stressed that Governments had to recognize the right to freedom of religion or belief as a human and not a religious right. It was the believer that was protected and not religious systems. The universality and interdependence of all human rights was nothing new. Arguments based on culture, religion and tradition could not be used to undermine the universality of all human rights, the Special Rapporteur emphasized. Answering questions about good practices, he said he was encouraged by faith-based actors’ activities and efforts to ensure that everyone enjoyed human rights. They presented the best hope in that respect. It was important that collaborative networks worked in line with international human rights law. States could support stakeholders by giving space and amplifying the voices of faith leaders who promoted tolerance and understanding. Ending all gender-based discrimination was crucial for securing peace, development and security, the Special Rapporteur stressed. Ensuring the right to freedom of religion or belief fully was not possible without safeguarding that right for women and girls, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Sale and Sexual Exploitation of Children

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, including child prostitution, child pornography and other child sexual abuse material (A/HRC/43/40).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, including child prostitution, child pornography and other child sexual abuse material – Visit to Bulgaria (A/HRC/43/40/Add.1).

Presentation of Reports by the Special Rapporteur on the Sale and Sexual Exploitation of Children

MAUD DE BOER-BUQUICCHIO, Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, said she presented her sixth and last report with a mixed sense of accomplishment, frustration and a glimmer of hope. Accomplishment because in the face of such evil, she had explored the underlying root causes and the new manifestations of these abhorrent crimes and made recommendations on how to prevent and eradicate them. Frustration because the persistence of sale and sexual exploitation of children made this mandate as relevant as ever. Yet there was hope because of courageous children who stood up to speak and break the silence and the wall of ignorance, and because of the commitment and dedication of thousands of first-line child protection officers and law enforcement officers who were faced with the plight of child victims. Finally, hope because States were stepping up efforts to protect the rights of children, to provide them with care and recovery services and access to justice. However, more needed to be done.

The report was meant to signal to the international community the major challenges arising in order to ensure effectively combatting these crimes, all of which had to be addressed under the 2030 Agenda. There were challenges pertaining to the most vulnerable children : those struck by poverty and exclusion, children living in war zones, children in migration or in refugee camps, children with disabilities, children in institutional settings and children left behind. Justice and reparation for survivors were rarely provided. Prevention was key and a strategic approach was needed. At the level of the mandate, the lack of data on the sale and sexual exploitation of children continued to hamper progress and it seemed to be off-track on Sustainable Development Goals, 16.2 in particular. The Special Rapporteur hoped that the development of Goal indicators at local and international levels would ensure that leaving no one behind included the protection of every single child against sale and sexual exploitation. The Special Rapporteur said that if the world wanted to succeed, they had to start by tackling the root causes. This required an environment in which the sale and sexual abuse or exploitation of children was not ignored, tolerated or accepted.

Turning to her visit to Bulgaria, the Special Rapporteur noted that significant work was being done by the authorities, but the remaining task was to ensure the long-term care and rehabilitation of children. There was a need to accelerate the reform of the juvenile justice system and ensure coordination with child protection services. The Government was called on to ensure that care and recovery services provided to child victims had sufficient funding and staffing. The Bulgarian Government should expand bilateral and international agreements with other countries of origin, transit and destination and coordinate efforts with the civil society sector.

Statement by the Concerned Country

Bulgaria, speaking as the concerned country, highly appreciated the work carried out by mandate holders. Bulgaria was strongly committed to the protection of the rights of the child both nationally and internationally. It shared the view of the Special Rapporteur that juvenile justice and data collection had to be strengthened. To that end, Bulgaria had taken appropriate steps. In addition, the latest legislative amendments aimed at improving social services and support for children victims of violence and sexual exploitation. As for the report’s claim that Bulgaria lacked a clear definition of child prostitution and pornography, the delegation of Bulgaria clarified that it used the definitions in line with international norms. On education for children from ethnic groups, it was clarified that Bulgaria did not collect data based on ethnicity. The Government took trafficking and sale of children extremely seriously and approached the issue in cooperation with international partners and civil society, the delegation stressed. At least three nation-wide awareness raising campaigns were conducted in the country to combat the sale and trafficking of children.

Discussion with the Special Rapporteur on the Sale and Sexual Exploitation of Children

Speakers said patriarchal structures must be eradicated as they were a fundamental factor driving the demand for the sexual exploitation of girls. They voiced concern that such structures led to ignoring and even tolerating the sexual exploitation of children. Vulnerability to sexual exploitation could be exacerbated by multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, and power imbalances between children and adults in institutions. The global conjecture of rapid evolution of new technologies, massive migration flows, armed conflicts and humanitarian crises, as well as the deepening of poverty and inequalities accentuated traditional forms of exploitation, such as prostitution and early marriage, as well as online sexual exploitation. As children composed a large portion of forcibly displaced populations, they were condemned to refugee camps, where they were exposed to various forms of abuse and neglect, instead of going to school. Proper education programmes and guidance prepared children to understand that sexual exploitation and abuse were an affront to their rights, as well as to seek support and redress. Speakers underlined that comprehensive sexuality education was indispensable to ensure that victims of sexual exploitation and violence were equipped with the means to claim their rights. Thorough investigation and prosecution were crucial in order to stop the culture of silence surrounding child sexual abuse and exploitation. Speakers thus asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on child-friendly investigation and reporting mechanisms, and to provide some best practices. They also asked the Special Rapporteur how the international community could best coordinate efforts among States, where offenders travelled to sexually abuse children, in order to eliminate sexual exploitation in the context of tourism.

Speakers agreed with the Special Rapporteur that in order to adequately fight against the sale and sexual exploitation of children, it was necessary to strengthen relevant legal frameworks, as well as bilateral, regional and international agreements. Likewise, universal ratification of the three Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child would contribute to better fight against the phenomenon. Countries whose regions were under attack by terrorist groups faced a very serious problem of the sale and sexual exploitation of children. Speakers called on States to be more decisive and to dedicate more resources to eliminate this scourge. National efforts to protect children from sale, sexual exploitation and trafficking of children should benefit from enhanced coordination and linkage between the work of the United Nations treaty bodies, human rights mechanisms and regional intergovernmental bodies. It was unacceptable that the information and communication technologies had become an alarming facilitator for the sexual exploitation of children. However, speakers recalled that the international community should not underestimate the role that new technologies could play in preventing child abuse. Accordingly, they asked the Special Rapporteur how private actors in the digital sector could contribute to the common fight against sexual exploitation of children online.

Interim Remarks by the Special Rapporteur on the Sale and Sexual Exploitation of Children

MAUD DE BOER-BUQUICCHIO, Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, said it was important to achieve change in the cultural paradigm in order to focus on and tackle root causes of the sale and sexual exploitation of children. One example of this was the patriarchal structure that promoted male sexual domination and this was reflected later in sexual exploitation of girls. Masculinity stereotypes affecting boys prevented boys from reporting, because they were not supposed to be weak. This was the social paradigm and it remained hidden. There was a lot of racism and all these factors had to be taken into account. Second, there was a tendency to look away. All families cared about their own children, but did they really care about other children? A comprehensive system was needed and it was necessary to speak openly about crimes. Children had to be given tools to report abuse. There was a recent Convention on Tourism which was a big step forward. There was a need to sensitize society to engage tour operators, airlines, and airports of potential offenders. Information technologies were part of the problem but also part of the solution, as they could provide tools to prevent, to detect and to educate. A proper regulatory framework had to be in place to ensure accountability.

Discussion with the Special Rapporteur on the Sale and Sexual Exploitation of Children

Speakers expressed grave concern over the fact that children, as one of the most vulnerable groups in society, continued to suffer from many forms of injustice and prejudices across the world, including child prostitution and pornography. This was happening as the world was celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Delegations subscribed to recommendations outlined in the report, particularly in the area of social inclusion and achieving comprehensive protection systems to eradicate the sale and sexual exploitation of children. Lack of data and systemic laws made this problem more difficult to comprehensively resolve. Children on the move were the most vulnerable. Massive displacement and uprooting caused by disasters rendered children exposed to violence and abuse. The fact that migrant children were treated as political pawns on migration policies by certain countries was all the more alarming. Only through a holistic approach which addressed the underlying factors could the international community overcome such predicament. States presented the measures they were taking to protect against human trafficking, child prostitution and pornography, including developing legal frameworks to tackle different aspects of this problem, raising awareness of the general public, capacity building of law enforcement and relevant social services, service provision and criminalization of perpetrators. Capacities of criminal justice systems, including prosecutors and judges, were also raised, in order to provide efficient punishment of perpetrators.


For use of the information media; not an official record


HRC20.017E