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South Africa: UN rights expert calls for action to stem apparent rise in child exploitation

South Africa: UN rights expert calls for action to stem apparent rise in child exploitation

A United Nations human rights expert has called for urgent action to stem an apparent increase in sexual violence against children in South Africa.

A United Nations human rights expert has called for urgent action to stem an apparent increase in sexual violence against children in South Africa.

In a preliminary report of his visit last month to the country, Juan Miguel Petit, the UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, says that he found young children were being targeted as sexual partners in order to reduce the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. He also reports that children were being raped by individuals who believe that sex with a virgin will cure them from the disease.

The Special Rapporteur recommends that the victims of sexual violence be given prophylaxis against HIV/AIDS in schools, shelters and police stations. In addition, he suggests that access to treatment, care and support be made available to children living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

While noting that the country had many different and dedicated actors working on behalf of children's rights, Mr. Petit also urges the creation of a collective structure, such as a multi-sectoral children's ministry fully resourced with qualified staff, to act as a first entry point for abused children.

Mr. Petit, who visited South Africa from 16 to 26 September at the Government's invitation, met with various government officials, including those from the Department of Social Development and the Department of Health. He also visited shelters and drop-in centres for female and child victims of abuse and individuals seeking HIV/AIDS testing and counselling.

The Special Rapporteur's full report will be presented to the Geneva-based UN Commission on Human Rights at its next session in March.