UN Tourism Conference Held In Cambodia Where Children are Sold to Vacationers

Feb. 9, 2015 – A first-ever world tourism and culture conference was held in Cambodia last week as that same country’s record on protecting children came under review by the Child Rights Committee in Geneva.

The conference, organized by the UN World Tourism Organization and UNESCO, concluded on Friday – a day after the UN committee released a blistering report on Cambodia’s compliance with the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

In its report on Thursday, the committee said it “deeply regrets that preventive measures regarding offenses prohibited by the Optional Protocol remain inadequate and fragmentary.”

In particular, the committee said they were concerned about “orphanage tourism, which seems to be a growing phenomenon where children in institutions and orphanages are being exposed to sexual exploitation by foreigners, such as tourists and volunteer workers.”

It also asked the government of Cambodia to revise its laws by “defining and criminalizing all forms of sale of children and child pornography.”

An estimated one-third of prostitutes in Cambodia are under the age of 18 and the country’s laws do not specifically define or prohibit the prostitution of children.

The committee asked Cambodia’s government to push its tourism agencies and travel agents to sign up the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism published by the UNWTO – the same agency that held its inaugural tourism and culture conference in Cambodia last week.

Some 37 percent of the victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation in Cambodia are children, according to UNICEF, and up to 30 percent of boys and girls reported experiencing forced sex in their lifetimes.

The UNWTO/UNESCO tourism conference made no note of child sex tourism in its press release following the conference’s conclusion but on Monday it was announced that Carol Bellamy, a former executive-director of UNICEF and New York City councilwoman, had been appointed as chair of the UNWTO child protection network.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Children Now Allowed Complain Directly to UN Rights Committee

June 10, 2014 – Now that ten countries have ratified the third optional protocol of the Child Rights Convention, children and teenagers may lodge complaints directly with the UN.

Belgium became the eleventh country to ratify the treaty late last month but it was Costa Rica’s accession in January that allowed the protocol to come into force in April, three months after the tenth country ratified it.

Only children and teenagers in the eleven countries that have ratified the protocol can make a complaint to the Child Rights Committee and, like other international human rights mechanisms, only after domestic remedies have been exhausted.

Violations must also have taken place after April 14th when the protocol came into force.

The eleven countries, on four continents, that have ratified optional protocol 3 are Albania, Belgium, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Gabon, Germany, Montenegro, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Thailand.

The office of the UN envoy for child rights has produced a child-friendly guide to understanding the optional protocol procedure for making complaints.

When the General Assembly were debating the text of the optional protocol in 2011, there was much discussion on the capacity of children to make complaints to an international group with some states arguing that complaints should be brought by parents on behalf of their children while others argued that parents are not always the best advocates as they may be the offenders.

Central to the Convention on the Rights of the Child is that children have a right to express their views at any age but in practice it is more likely that future complaints brought before the committee will be submitted on behalf of the children by their parents, a lawyer or others.

A major impetus in drafting optional protocol 3 was to encourage states to provide domestic mechanisms to address complaints by children of human rights abuses.

– Denis Fitzgerald 
On Twitter @denisfitz

Brazil Becomes 38th Country to Ban Corporal Punishment

June 5, 2014 – The UN envoy for child rights is calling for other countries to follow Brazil’s example after the South American country’s senate on Thursday passed a law banning all forms of corporal punishment against children.

Brazil is the 38th country to ban physical punishment of children in homes and schools and the second this year after Malta’s ban which was passed in March. Sweden was the world’s first country to ban corporal punishment in 1979.

“With this historic decision, Brazilian children can grow up in safety and in a protective environment, and violence can be made part of a distant past,” Maria Santos Pais said in a statement.

“With the enactment of this legislation, the percentage of the world’s children protected by a legal ban on all forms of violence will increase from 5 percent to 8 percent,” she stated.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child defines corporal punishment as “any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however slight,” and it calls physical punishment “invariably degrading.”

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz