Children - often girls forced into prostitution - are being trafficked throughout Laos and across its borders, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said today, calling for urgent measures in response.
"Child trafficking is a criminal act that violates the fundamental rights of the most vulnerable children," said UNICEF's Desiree Jongsma in Vientiane, the capital of the Lao People's Democratic Republic.
For a new study, Broken Promises, Shattered Dreams, representatives of UNICEF and the Lao Government interviewed 253 trafficking victims, along with their families, and found that 60 per cent were girls 18 or younger. More than one third of them were forced into prostitution, while others were held as virtual slaves and forced to do domestic or factory work.
About one third of the global trafficking in women and children takes place in and from East Asia, according to UNICEF, which reported that the traffickers are often people known to the children, who come to believe their captors' false promises.
UNICEF has been supporting the Government and local non-governmental organizations (NGO) by providing training on anti-trafficking strategies, HIV/AIDS prevention, the principles enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the maintenance of village child protection networks.
"This study has a deeper lesson to teach us: we can only counter the lure of the traffickers by creating real opportunities for children and young people," Ms. Jongsma said. "If they believe they can realize their dreams for a bright future at home, they will no longer feel compelled to leave their communities for distant cities or neighbouring countries."