Nigeria’s United Nation Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, has decried what she termed, the worsening rate of sexual abuse and exploitation of millions of girls and boys, describing the development as regrettable.
Mohammed raised the concern during an event co-organised by the World Childhood Foundation, the Swedish Mission to the UN, the UN Office of Partnerships and other non-profits at the UN Headquarters in New York.
She lamented that millions of girls and boys face the alarmingly common childhood experience of sexual abuse and exploitation every day and across all countries and levels of society.
Mohammed said that governments must do more to end the daily sexual abuse and exploitation of girls and boys worldwide.
According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), globally as at 2014, at least 120 million girls under the age of 20 – about one in 10 – have been forced to engage in sex or perform other sexual acts.
[penci_blockquote style=”style-1″ align=”none” author=””]“Preventing violence and exploitation of children is everyone’s business, everywhere at all times. We must address this challenge and break the silence,” Mohammed stressed.[/penci_blockquote]
Millions more, including millions of boys, never tell anyone about being abused for fear of stigma or reprisals, UNICEF said.
Similarly, the UK-based independent think-tank Overseas Development Institute, estimates that the global economic impacts and costs resulting from the consequences of physical, psychological and sexual violence against children could be as high as $7 trillion.
According to the deputy secretary general, this massive cost is higher than the investment required to prevent much of the violence.
“Faced with growing evidence of the impacts and the emergence of the internet in facilitating the sexual exploitation of children, governments have started to act.
“Target 16.2 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) calls on all countries to “end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against, and torture of, children” by 2030.
“All over the world, governments are updating their laws and policies to more effectively criminalise child sexual abuse and exploitation. Governments are also building systems to better protect and care for child victims.
‘Civil society, the media and industry are key allies in these efforts,” Mohammed stated.
The UN deputy scribe noted that thanks to data collected over the years, “we now have a deeper understanding of what works to make society safer for children,” insisting on the need for multi-sectoral and multi-partner approaches, within the UN and at the national levels.
“Preventing violence and exploitation of children is everyone’s business, everywhere at all times. We must address this challenge and break the silence,” Mohammed stressed.
During the event, a benchmarking tool developed by The Economist Intelligence Unit, known as ‘Out of the Shadows’, was officially launched.
The Out of the Shadows tool was created to allow an easy collection and sharing of best practices worldwide, a reliable identification of gaps and widen discussion of a subject that remains taboo in many societies.
The tool covers 40 countries and assesses how effectively nations are addressing issues of child sexual abuse across four categories.
These are the safety of the environments in which children evolve; the legal frameworks in place; the level of government commitment and capacity to address the issue and the level of engagement of the private sector, civil society and the media.
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The index revealed that the wealthiest countries tended to have the highest rankings, but even so, their scores revealed critical gaps in terms of achieving all the necessary protective conditions for children.
Coordinator for Crimes Against Children for INTERPO, Björn Sellström, said that much of the sexual violence was being widely shared over the internet.
“In terms of trends, and this is, of course, worrying, what we see in terms of online sexual abuse, is that a vast majority of the children we’re looking at are ‘white’ children…coming from the Western part of the world.
“We see younger and younger kids. And the younger the kids are, the more violent the abuse, especially for boys,” Sellström explained.
He added that the majority of the materials depicted pre-pubescents or toddlers, which pointed to the fact that perpetrators were often well-known to the victims.