Date: Mon, 22 Mar 1999 22:40:43 -0600 (CST)
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Rich Winkel)
Subject: RIGHTS-LATAM: Against the Sexual Exploitation of Children
/** ips.english: 581.0 **/
Against the Sexual Exploitation of Children
By Raul Ronzoni, IPS, 18 March 1999
MONTEVIDEO, Mar 18 (IPS) - Specialists in Latin America agreed in Uruguay Thursday that insufficient measures have been taken against the growing problem of the sexual exploitation of children and adolescents.
In a meeting called by the Interamerican Institute of the Child (IIN), specialists from Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Uruguay examined the situation and called for solutions to be sought.
The seminar, promoted by the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB) included other participants from bodies like Interpol, the Interamerican Human Rights Commission and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
Those present expressed their concern over the situation but agreed there are many obstacles to developing a plan of action to combat the sexual exploitation of children.
One of them is the lack of sufficient research and public debate on the question, although they agreed that poverty and domestic violence are two factors which contribute to this exploitation.
The action taken by INN arose from the mandate the interamerican body was given in 1996 during the World Congress against the Sexual Exploitation of Children held in Stockholm, Sweden.
The studies, being discussed in Montevideo Thursday and Friday, will form the basis for an IDB drive to promote strategies and plans of action aimed at preventing this exploitation.
Guillermo Davalos, from Bolivia, said there was little study of the issue in this country.
He stated that even when advances are made in research of domestic violence against women and children, the problems of the sexual exploitation of children and adolescents were treated as isolated issues.
The Bolivian State lacks strategies to prevent this situation and therefore presents no institutional answers "in the rigorous sense of this concept," he stated.
Brazil's Maria Lucia Pinto Leal said commercial sexual exploitation of children had many different dimensions according to the region and socioeconomic variants.
This varies from exploitation in closed brothels in the north, violence against these groups in all urban centres, to sex tourism in coastal, port and frontier areas.
There are 40 programmes working against the abuse and commercial sexual exploitation of children and adolescents in Brazil, 70 percent of which operate in the northeast.
Pinto Leal said it was necessary and urgent to build "validating, ethical and legal paradigms centred in human rights and a policy of the integral and integrated protection of children and adolescents."
Colombia, meanwhile, has two basic forms of exploitation: open, street prostitution and the hidden version, said Sonia Sanchez Sosa, consultant for this country.
In the former, the children or adolescents are tempted or forced into prostitution under the protection of madams, while the hidden version occurs in dating houses, brothels or massage parlours, amongst other places, she added.
And in spite of this country having no concrete figures on the number of children and adolescents exploited, Sanchez Sosa said data from the police and private foundations tell of 35,000 children linked to prostitution.
In Chile, consultant Osvaldo Torres, said exploitation must be analysed within the social and cultural framework, and that this should be considered for the drawing up of policies and specific objectives.
"At present there is a cultural process of commercialisation of social relations which is globally impacting almost all societies in a differentiated way but following the same basic pattern," he added.
Torres identified some factors which help account for the weakness of Chilean approaches to the issue, including a lack authorities concerned with the question, a shortage of resources for stopping exploitation, legal loopholes preventing effective repression of these networks and a lack of coordination between entities.
He also stressed "the conservative cultural climate which prevents public discussion from taking place" linking sensitive questions to the religious and moral beliefs of the Chilean people.
Nicaragua has similar problems preventing effective action, said Danilo Medrano.
Medrano proposed a three-pronged approach from school entry age to prevent mistreatment, educate and increase awareness in both children and their families.
Mariana Gonzalez, from Uruguay, also stated the multiple difficulties in sketching out strategies to counter this scourge.
"The scarcity of previous studies and national material dealing with the issue is in itself an indicator of the low level of coverage given to the theme," she said.
In the only survey of the issue carried out in Uruguay, in October 1998, some 22 percent of those questioned said economic problems were the most relevant factor in this problem.
Gonzalez stated in Uruguay there are no "preventative solutions" underway to combat this type of sexual exploitation.
[c] 1999, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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