U.N.: Child sex trade 'a form of terrorism'
TOKYO, Japan -- Labelling the commercial sexual exploitation of children a 'form of terrorism', the United Nations child welfare agency (UNICEF) has called for a global effort to stamp out the trade.
At a global conference in Yokohama on the world's growing child sex trade, more than 3,000 delegates from 137 countries are gathering for four days to map out a collective assault on a trade that affects millions of children.
"The commercial sexual exploitation and abuse of children is nothing less than a form of terrorism -- one whose wanton destruction of young lives and futures must not be tolerated for another year, another day, another hour," UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy told Reuters news agency.
How to break a criminal web worth billions of dollars that allows the child sex trade to flourish and how to harness new technology to trace both victims and offenders are among the topics to be addressed at the congress.
The conference kicks off where the first congress finished five years ago in Stockholm, Sweden, and with child pornography, trafficking and prostitution on the increase the task has become no easier.
At its opening, organizers reaffirmed a pledge, made by governments, United Nations agencies and children's rights groups at Stockholm to work together against the trade.
"Millions of children throughout the world are being bought and sold like chattel and used as sex slaves," declared UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy in a statement.
"Zero tolerance means ending the trafficking of children, their sale and barter and imprisonment and torture," she reiterated.
Japanese Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka at the conference called for "resolute and immediate action" across the globe to combat child sex trade.
She told Reuters that "commercial sexual exploitation of children was a grave violation of their human rights."
The meeting comes on the heels of a recent UNICEF report on the commercial sexual exploitation of children "Profiting from Abuse" that provides a barrage of statistics and testimonials from victims.
The report says that in Pakistan, based on reported cases alone, a woman or child is raped on average every three hours.
"From the brothels of Bangkok to the sidewalks of Manila, the train stations of Moscow to the truck routes of Tanzania, the suburbs of New York to the beaches of Mexico, the outrageous is commonplace," the report said.
UNICEF says it is trying to address the underlying causes of child sexual abuse by working to improve access to and quality of education, raising awareness, and advocating for children's rights.
The United Nations says one million children are drawn into prostitution annually.
It estimates that 100,000 children and women in the Philippines, 400,000 in India, 100,000 in Taiwan, 200,000 in Thailand are subject to commercial sexual exploitation in the region.
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