Speech about the Americas Children and Youth Day (June 9)

First of all, thank you for organizing this webinar. I believe that webinars like this are exemplary of how much importance the Inter-American Human Rights System (i.e. the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Children’s Institute) and the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child place on maintaining children’s rights and holding themselves accountable. It’s incredible for them to invite youth themselves from the CORIA Network and take their opinions, recommendations and concerns into consideration for policy formation, so thank you! Also, organizations such as the CORIA Network are very important as they are a great way for youth to learn about their rights, current violations and how to solve them whilst teaching other youth and adults about them as well, and because they take the recommendations of youth for policy frameworks as well. So, I thank the CORIA Network for this and for the opportunities they provide to youth to be involved in policy education and implementation. 


Unfortunately, while much has been done in the path of ensuring children have obtained their rights, I’m still very worried as many issues still exist. The issue I’m concerned about in particular is that of child sex trafficking. The reason why I’m concerned is because there are more slaves today than there ever was in history, according to a source from the Walk Free Foundation. The UN reports that there are about 20 to 30 million slaves in the world. The worst part is that children are also a part of this number, many as child sex trafficking victims. This is occurring in every single country of North, South and Central America.


Children are more vulnerable than adults. They’re easier to control, cheaper, and less likely to demand working conditions, which has contributed to More than 1 million children being exploited each year in the commercial sex trade, according to the International Labour Organization. This is especially concerning for me because the average age of child sex trafficking victims is 15 and  each child is purchased on average 5.4 times a day. Sex trafficking, according to the United Nations’ International Labour Organization, is a $99 billion-a-year global industry. The exploitation of more than 1 million children accounts for more than 20 percent of those profits. 


But the most painful part? It’s rare for police and prosecutors to pursue buyers after they’ve paid to abuse children. That’s true even in the most nauseating of crimes. For example, the State Department’s 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report found the Department of Justice opened 657 human trafficking investigations in 2018 and that there were significantly fewer prosecutions: 230, of which 218 were for sex trafficking. But this lack of sufficient action isn’t only taking place in one or two countries; rather, it has become apparent in every single country in North, South and Central America.

«That child will have to fight the stigma of what happened to her for the rest of her life,» said Alex Trouteaud, director of policy and research with Demand Abolition, a Massachusetts-based organization that works to reduce demand for commercial sex. «Meanwhile, the buyers will never be held accountable. It’s what we call the culture of  impunity.»

But what makes this problem more prevalent is that there is insufficient rehabilitation for victims recovering from this trauma and as a result, their ability to integrate back into society is being hampered. According to Seena Simon, a director at the Aruna Project “Employment was the gap,” where “Once they (victims) were trained in some kind of skill, we sent them for work, but they couldn’t cope with the pressure. Finish the deadline, finish the targets — they couldn’t do it. There was an internal conflict and many of them failed. And some I know went back to the red light district.”. This shows how failing to rehabilitate victims can lead to them becoming preys once again to sex trafficking.


A report from the Human Rights Project for Girls, Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality and Ms. Foundation for Women supports the finding that girls who grow up in the instability of the child welfare system, particularly those placed in multiple homes, are “vulnerable to the manipulation of traffickers who promise to love and care for them. Indeed, some traffickers purposely troll for youth in certain group homes because they are aware of this vulnerability.” 


This is why I recommend the Inter-American Human Rights System to mandate and routinely review the progress of member states in strengthening protection services in their country’s child welfare and adoption systems . state and local jurisdictions and prosecutors.


I would also recommend that the Inter-American Human Rights System mandate and routinely review the progress of member states in increasing public funding to victim service providers for their rehabilitation that can help them to assimilate back into society.


Most importantly, I would also  recommend that the Inter-American Human Rights System to mandate and assist Member countries in funding separate investigations and police departments just for helping track and solve issues pertaining to child sex trafficking or all forms of trafficking in all ages.


Finally, I recommend that children and adolescents of all inter-American countries help Member states to have mandatory education of what are their rights, how to identify when they are being violated, and most importantly, what to do and who to contact if these are taking place.


Written by: Shifa Sarker

CORIA Canada