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UNICEF hails entry into force of accord to protect children from sexual abuse

UNICEF hails entry into force of accord to protect children from sexual abuse

Carol Bellamy
UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, today hailed the entry into force of an international accord designed to thwart the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

"It is marvellous testimony to our commitment that a Protocol setting high standards in protecting children from sexual exploitation and abuse becomes a binding human rights instrument," said UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy, referring to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child

The Protocol seeks to raise standards in protecting children from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse. The Protocol calls for governments to ensure that adults involved in the exploitation of children are punished. It also urges governments to take decisive action when their nationals take part in the abuse of children abroad, and encourages countries to co-operate to ensure the protection of children trafficked across borders.

"It is now urgent that governments implement the standards. Children who are victims of child prostitution, exploitation, trafficking and sexual abuse deserve every protection we can offer," Ms. Bellamy said.

Negotiated over a number of years with governments, experts and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the Optional Protocol enters into force as an estimated one million children (mainly girls) join the multi-billion dollar commercial sex trade every year. Girls appear to be forced into the sex industry at younger ages than previously, partly as a result of the mistaken belief that younger girls are unlikely to be infected with the HIV/AIDS virus. These children are refugees, orphans, abandoned children, child labourers working as domestic servants or children affected by armed conflict.

To date, the Protocol has been signed by 89 countries and ratified by 16.