An estimated one million children enter the multi-billion dollar commercial sex trade every year, suffering degradation and life-threatening risk.
One of the optional protocols to the Convention on the Rights of Child is the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. This protocol requires states to prohibit the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. It entered into force on January 18, 2002, and as of May 2009 131 states are party to the protocol and another 31 states have signed but not yet ratified it.
The Protocol provides definitions for the offenses of the ‘sale of children’, ‘child prostitution’ and ‘child pornography’. It creates obligations on governments to criminalize and punish the activities related to these offenses. It calls for punishing those offering or delivering children for the purposes of sexual exploitation, transfer of organs or children for profit or forced labor, and requires punishing anyone accepting the child for these activities.
The Protocol protects the rights and interests of child victims. It requires that governments must provide legal and other support services to child victims including the consideration of the best interests of the child in interactions with the criminal justice system. The necessary medical, psychological, logistical and financial support to children to aid their rehabilitation and reintegration is also prescribed by the Act. As a complement to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, interpretation of the Optional Protocol’s text must always be guided by the principles of non-discrimination, best interests of the child and child participation. The value of international cooperation and public education are also stressed in the Protocol.
Articles 34 and 35 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child state that governments should protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse and take all measures possible to ensure that they are not abducted, sold or trafficked. The Convention’s Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography supplements the Convention by providing States with detailed requirements to end the sexual exploitation and abuse of children. It also protects children from being sold for non-sexual purposes such as other forms of forced labor, illegal adoption and organ donation.
After receiving the first 10 ratifications needed for its entry into force, the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography became legally binding on January 18, 2002. Today, more than 100 countries have signed and ratified this Protocol.