NEWS: U.N. Hears of Abuse of Millions Of Children

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Jyothi Kanics---Global Survival Network (jkanics@igc.apc.org)
Wed, 11 Nov 1998 13:36:56 -0800 (PST)


Friday November 6 10:53 AM ET

U.N. Hears of Abuse of Millions Of Children

By Michele Kambas

NICOSIA (Reuters) - Millions of children worldwide are easy prey for
exploitation and abuse,
either in an armed conflict, as a source of cheap labor or in prostitution,
speakers at a conference in
Cyprus said Friday.

As a United Nations convention on the rights of the child marks a decade
since its inception, there
were millions who were still deprived of their childhood in countries which
had signed up to the
treaty.

About 250 million children between the ages of five and 14 were working, 100
million were
homeless street children, 10 million were bonded into slavery around the
world and 300,000 under
the age of eighteen fought as combatants in regular or irregular armies.

``Across the world, child slaves are making bricks, charcoal, jewelry and
fireworks. They are
mining, logging, farming, selling, begging, hauling goods and being
prostituted,'' said Kevin Bales,
professor at the Roehampton Institute in London.

The trend, which he called ``New Slavery'' was fuelled by greed; cruelty was
just a tool in a
process of economic exploitation.

``Our little measures of greed -- for better returns on our investments, or
for fatter pension funds --
feed into the great rivers of greed that wash across the developing world
and draw the vulnerable
into slavery,'' he told delegates at the conference organized by the
Nicosia-based Center for World
Dialogue.

Children were no longer accidental victims in armed conflict, said Nigel
Fisher, a visiting United
Nations Fellow at the Canadian Center for Foreign Policy Development in Ottawa.

In the past decade, millions had been killed or else they had died from
malnutrition or diseases
which could have been prevented. Tens of millions more had been disabled or
made refugees, he
said.

``War is waged against children and intentionally so. They are killed
because they represent the
future of the opposing ethnic community,'' he said.

Briton Bruce Harris, executive director of Caza Alianza, an independent
childcare agency, said
there were some 40 million street children in Latin America left to fend for
themselves.

If that were not bad enough, they had become the defenseless victims of
exploitation, torture and
murder.

``Street kids is a political problem. It can be resolved if the resources
are put there, but they are
not,'' said Harris, who has been given international awards for his aid work.

Boys survived by begging, girls quickly fell into the grip of prostitution
while in Guatemala baby
trafficking had surged, he said.

In some cases, babies were adopted by questionable means. Sometimes the the
baby was stolen
or the mother tricked into handing over her child.

It was an industry worth $25 million a year, said Harris.

``It is easy to get babies in Guatemala. You can even buy babies over the
internet in Guatemala,''
he told Reuters.

``I am not against international adoptions but babies should not be treated
as merchandise...
exporting babies to the U.S. or North America and giving them (designer)
sports shoes and a
skateboard doesn't necessarily give them happiness.''


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