News/Asia: Child trafficking on rise due to weak laws, lax ...

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Subject: News/Asia: Child trafficking on rise due to weak laws, lax ...
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Tue Mar 28 2000 - 08:53:06 EST


           Child trafficking on rise due to weak laws, lax ...

OTC 3-9-00 8:42 AM

BANGKOK, March 9 (Kyodo) -- By: Tim Johnson Child trafficking in South and
Southeast Asia is rising due to lax enforcement and the inadequacy of laws
established to fight it, the International Labor Organization (ILO) said
Thursday.
    "The increased number of projects and governments involved in combating
child trafficking has not stemmed the tide of children who fall prey to
traffickers," said an ILO report released at a three-day international
conference on child labor that began Wednesday in Jakarta.
    "In fact, accounts in many South and Southeast Asian nations show the
problem is growing," it said.
    In South Asia, the report said, children are being trafficked for
forced or bonded labor, as well as for camel jockeying, forced marriages
and even the sale of organs.
    Sexual exploitation is also rife, with recent research suggesting there
are about 200,000 Bangladeshi children in the brothels of Pakistan and
another 300,000 in the brothels of India, where there are also tens of
thousands of Nepalese children working in the commercial sex business.
    In Southeast Asia, most trafficking victims are forced into
prostitution, though others are trafficked for bonded labor, domestic
work, forced marriages, adoptions, and more recently to work for begging
gangs in Thailand, a phenomenon also seen in Vietnam.
    The report said an influx of pedophile tourists has increased the
demand for child prostitutes in Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos
and Vietnam.
    It said the age of child prostitutes is dropping, in part due to the
misconception that young children will not carry or transmit HIV/AIDS.
    Moreover, many men believe that having sex with young girls will
improve their virility or perhaps even cure a sexually transmitted disease
or make them more successful in business. Child prostitutes as young as
five are thus in high demand, the report said.
    While all South or Southeast Asian countries have laws relating to the
trafficking of children, those laws are generally incomplete and
ineffective when it comes to implementation, the report said. With the
possible exception of Thailand's laws, none meet international standards,
it said.
    For example, several countries do not define children as under the age
of 18, the guideline set in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Nepal defines children as below age 16, while in Pakistan there is no
single clear definition of a child.
    In Cambodia, legal provisions relating to trafficking are so unclear,
and judicial processes so cumbersome and time-consuming, that many
offenders escape prosecution. In Bangladesh, alleged perpetrators walk
free because overwhelmed courts cannot prosecute them within the statute
of limitations.
    Another problem the report cites is that child victims of trafficking
are often treated first as illegal aliens and second -- if at all -- as
victims of crime.
    In Pakistan, a girl who has been sexually assaulted can be jailed,
whipped or even stoned for what others charge is adultery and premarital
sex, which are criminal offenses there, while police often arrest victims
of trafficking rather than the traffickers.
    In Thailand and Cambodia, children trafficked from other countries are
generally detained as violators of immigration laws and are deported.
    The report said that in much of the region, corrupt officials, police
or military are involved in child trafficking and prostitution, with some
owning brothels themselves or protecting those that they personally
frequent.
    Recruiters also form networks with law enforcement officials in order
to get protection.
    On the bright side, however, the report said governments throughout the
region have been revising their trafficking laws, with Nepal and India
considering new bills on trafficking, and Laos examining how to bring
relevant legislation in line with international standards.
    Some countries have increased penalties for child trafficking. In
Bangladesh, the offense now carries a penalty of life imprisonment or
death, while in Sri Lanka and Thailand the maximum penalty has been raised
to 20 years.
    -0-
     Copyright 2000


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