News/UN: HUMAN RIGHTS: U.N. CONDEMNS CHILD EXPLOITATION

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Subject: News/UN: HUMAN RIGHTS: U.N. CONDEMNS CHILD EXPLOITATION
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Sun Feb 06 2000 - 21:50:30 EST


                HUMAN RIGHTS: U.N. CONDEMNS CHILD EXPLOITATION

OTC 2/6/00 2:05 AM

GENEVA, (Feb. 4) IPS - A United Nations working group finished drafting a
document today aimed at cracking down on trafficking in children, and on
child pornography and prostitution worldwide.
   Once approved, the final text is to become an optional protocol to the
Convention on the Rights of the Child.
   But the adoption of the protocol depends on the resolution of a
long-running dispute over a clause that France wants included, and which
the United States refuses to sign.
   The French delegation insists that only countries that have ratified
the Convention on the Rights of the Child should be allowed to sign the
protocol. The United States and Somalia are the only U.N. member nations
that have not formally adhered to that international treaty.
   The representatives of France set forth the same demand last month when
another U.N. working group was discussing a different optional protocol to
the same convention. The protocol prohibiting the use of child soldiers
was finally approved after France withdrew - at the 11th hour - its
exigency, which also pitted it against the United States.
   But the French did not back down in the debate on the protocol on child
pornography and prostitution and the sale of children.
   Just hours before the end of the sessions, the working group's
chairman, Cuban diplomat Ivan Mora Godoy, considered approval of the
document a sure thing. But at the end of the meeting, Mora said the
protocol had been adopted 'ad referendum' of the next meeting to be held
by the working group, in late March.
   U.N. procedures stipulate that the draft document must be approved by
the world body's Human Rights Commission and General Assembly.
   The outstanding feature of the protocol is that it mandates the
establishment of punishment for offenses involving the sale of children or
child prostitution or pornography, said Mora.
   Mora cited a report by the non-governmental organization End Child
Prostitution in Asian Tourism (ECPAT), which estimates the number of
victims of offenses related to the sale and sexual exploitation of
children at around 800 million.
   These crimes are perpetrated by transnational organized gangs in an
illegal business which according to moderate estimates produces some $4
billion a year - outstripped only by drug and arms dealing, he added.
   The Cuban diplomat used the occasion to refer to the case of the Cuban
shipwrecked boy Elian Gonzalez, who was rescued at sea clinging to a boat
that overturned in an accident in which his mother died in her attempt to
make it to the United States.
   The 6-year-old, who remains with his relatives in Miami, has become a
political symbol for hard-line anti-Castro forces in the United States and
for the communist government of Fidel Castro, heightening the tension
between the United States and Cuba.
   Mora said that in Miami, "Elian's father was offered $4 million and a
house and a car, in order to get the boy to stay in the United States."
   The protocol states that the sale of a child is the act of transferring
a minor to a person or a group in exchange for money or "any other
benefit."
   The alleged offer to Elian's father is clearly an attempt to "buy" the
boy, because "there is a lot of money involved," Mora maintained.
   The case differs, however, from those in which much smaller amounts are
shelled out - typically $500 - "for adoptions in any country in the
developing world due to the socioeconomic needs that pressure families to
sell their children," he added.
   In the case of Elian, "there are political aims underlying the
intention to buy the boy." The new protocol would determine that such acts
merit punishment, Mora concluded.


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