Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (3)

The UNHCR Guidelines on Prevention and Response of Sexual Violence Against Refugees defines sexual violence as all forms of sexual threat, assault, interference and exploitation, including statutory rape and molestation without physical harm or penetration. Sexual exploitation can also involve the use or threat of force on a child with the objective of forcing the child to take part in sexual acts performed by third persons.
The Stockholm Congress defined commercial sexual exploitation of children as a practice that implies not only that the child is sexually abused but also that there is an exchange of goods or money as remuneration. Commercial exploitation therefore covers prostitution, domestic servitude and/or bonded labour, trafficking and pornography. Commercial sexual exploitation is an extreme form of sexual abuse and a particularly insidious form of child labour.
What are some common factors that influence sexual exploitation?
Many factors may place children at particular risk of sexual exploitation and violence.
Poverty and social inequality: This put refugee children at an increased risk of sexual exploitation, particularly prostitution and trafficking. Children are particularly vulnerable to being trafficked for sexual exploitation given that virginity, innocence and physical immaturity may be highly prized amongst perpetrators. In addition, economic insecurity may force families to initiate prostitution or trafficking in an effort to escape the desperation of their extreme poverty.
Consumerism/Materialism: The development of a culture which condones the commodification of individuals (particularly women and children) in an effort to acquire material wealth, increases the vulnerability of children to fall victim to sexual violence and exploitation. For example, older women and men who kidnap or coerce young children into prostitution and other sexually exploitative practices as a way of making money.
Situations of armed conflict and subsequent displacement of people can create a serious disruption of societal values. This may put children at greater risk of being targeted for sexual exploitation and assault by the military, irregular forces, other refugees, and/or those in a position of authority. This vulnerability can also be exacerbated by the breakdown of the family unit which reduces a child’s access to protection, secure and a stable environment.
Gender: Although both boys and girls are victims of sexual violence and exploitation, a general low regard for women exists in many cultures where women and girls are viewed as property. The vast majority of sexually assaulted, abused or exploited children are girls. On the other hand, a taboo against homosexuality may lead to the exploitation of boys being masked by silence.
Separated children living on their own and children in foster families or institutions are also at increased risk of sexual exploitation and violence due to the fact that they no longer have direct access to a family member or family-like figures for physical protection and/or material and emotional support.
Mentally and physically disabled children are particularly vulnerable to sexual assault and abuse owing to their inability to escape would-be aggressors. Children with both mental and physical disabilities require special attention when addressing issues of protection and care from sexual violence and exploitation.
Children belonging to marginalized ethnic groups are sometimes targeted for sexual violence as a form of ethnic cleansing. This violence is often directly related to their ethnic affiliations and/or religious beliefs. There is also a demand within the sex trade for children of backgrounds different from those of the consumers. As a result, children of different ethnic backgrounds (usually marginalized) are lured away from their communities and taken to urban centres where they may be unable to communicate in a foreign language, reducing their ability to resist and flee.
Cultural beliefs which are tolerant of child exploitation by condoning and/or ignoring the problems of prostitution, trafficking and early marriage of children(in some instances involving girls as young as eight), also contribute to the risk of children falling victim to sexual exploitation.
Who are the perpetrators of sexual exploitation and abuse?
Some elements in armed forces are perpetrators of sexual exploitation and rape. At times these may be random acts perpetrated by individual soldiers but also more systematically organized cases have been associated with “ethnic cleansing”. Additionally, in several well-documented cases, the presence of peacekeeping troops (and often associated with the presence of humanitarian workers), has caused an increase in child prostitution. Both power and money are used to exploit young girls for sexual relations in these situations.

Follow us