Mauritian children are increasingly vulnerable to sexual exploitation, due to a combination of poverty, family dysfunction, social taboos, alcohol and drugs, an independent United Nations human rights expert warned today.
Wrapping up an 11-day visit to the Indian Ocean country, the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography said the number of reported cases of sexual abuse, maltreatment and neglect in Mauritius continues to rise, despite the efforts of authorities and others to combat the problem.
“The phenomenon of girls sexually exploited in prostitution, either casual or permanent, is equally worrying, as is the growing number of teenage mothers,” said Najat Maalla M’jid in a statement issued in Port Louis, the capital.
“But the true scale of the sale and sexual exploitation remains difficult to determine because of the taboo surrounding sexuality and the absence of a centralized information system.”
Ms. Maalla M’jid said a number of factors had led to the rising vulnerability of children, including poverty, family dysfunction and alcohol and drug use. She also cited increasing consumerism, the persistent demands of the market for commercial sex, access to new technologies and parental migration for economic reasons.
A lack of sex education programmes also means children are not informed about the risks inherent in sexual activity at a young age, the statement noted.
But the Special Rapporteur welcomed the Mauritian Government’s ratification of the Additional Protocol to the Convention of the Rights of the Child on the scale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, which took place during her visit.
She also visited centres and programmes dedicated to the protection of children from violence and sexual abuse on both the island of Mauritius and the island of Rodrigues.
During the visit Ms. Maalla M’jid met with senior Government officials, the country’s ombudsperson for children, representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international partners as well.