Efforts by the United States Government to combat human trafficking have resulted in the dismantling of criminal networks and the arrest and prosecution of those involved in child prostitution, but considerable challenges remain in the protection of victims, a United Nations independent human rights expert said.
Najat M’jid Maalla, the UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, said sexually exploited children under the age of 18 in the US continue to be “arrested, charged and detained, not only because of the law, but also because of the lack of sustainable and safe alternatives to detention.”
She said that given the multi-dimensional and complex root causes of these phenomena, awareness-raising campaigns are not enough.
“Effective prevention must include stronger support to communities and families, working on social perceptions, addressing the situation of children at risk, and tackling the demand for sex with children, particularly the roles of buyers, intermediaries and traffickers,” Ms. Maalla said in a press release.
She said that during her fact-finding mission to the US between 12 and 27 October, she had meetings with federal, state and local officials in New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, New Orleans and Atlanta, who all said they recognized the problem of increasing availability of child pornography on the Internet.
She said the extent of the problem of the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography in the US remains difficult to assess mainly due to the absence of a standardized and centralized information gathering system.
The cross-border nature of child trafficking called for great international cooperation, Ms. Maalla said, adding that the private sector, including providers of electronic information services, social networking sites, telecommunications companies, transportation companies, the travel and tourism sector and the media, should be engaged in efforts to curb the problem.
Ms. Maalla welcomed the adoption of the US National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction, and encouraged the country to ensure the evaluation and monitoring of its implementation.