Alliance to STOP Sex Trafficking: How you can help
Changemakers talked with Ms. Patchareeboon Sakulpitakphon, program officer for ECPAT International, about their new campaign, “STOP Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People,” a partnership with The Body Shop. ECPAT is a global network of organizations and individuals that are working to eliminate child prostitution, child pornography, and the trafficking of children for sexual purposes.
Changemakers: What is the “STOP” campaign about?
Sakulpitakphon: “Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People” has three overall objectives:
- Raise funds to provide immediate support to child victims of sex trafficking.
- Change the public’s perception of child trafficking.
- Influence decision makers to take action towards better protection and care of children against trafficking.
EPCAT’s “The Code” is described on Changemakers.com as a code of conduct for the protection of children from sexual exploitation in travel and tourism
Changemakers: What are three of the most important facts about child trafficking that the “STOP” campaign would like people to know?
Sakulpitakphon: The trafficking of children and young people occurs in every country. Contrary to popular belief, the problem is not limited to developing countries or occurring at a distance. All countries are in some way part of the trafficking process—either as a source, transit provider, or a destination in the trafficking process. The International Labor Organization (ILO) and UNICEF estimate that approximately 1.2 million children are trafficked per year.
The percentage of minors involved in human trafficking is increasing. This is based on data collected by UNODC from identified cases of human trafficking. Minors make up 20 percent of the total number of victims (source: UNODC 2009 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons).
The buying and selling of human beings, including children, generates approximately US $31 billion a year (estimate in 2008, source: UNIAP).
Changemakers: How did the Body Shop get involved in the campaign and what are its goals?
Sakulpitakphon: The Body Shop approached ECPAT International in 2008 and asked us to help create this three-year, global campaign against the sex trafficking of children and young people. Through the initial planning phase, each partner brought its particular expertise and strengths to shape the campaign to the success that it is today.
For example, both partners wanted to go beyond simple awareness raising and towards creating long lasting impact, which is why we focused heavily on conducting advocacy, working directly with decision makers, and fundraising for anti-child trafficking projects around the world.
By working together, we’ve been able to raise more than US $3 million dollars, were honored by U.S. President Bill Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative 2009 – 2010, and were awarded the first U.N. Business Leadership Award against Human Trafficking.
Changemakers: How can public awareness of the issues translate into stopping child sex trafficking?
Sakulpitakphon: Public awareness of the issue, if facilitated correctly, can empower people to take action.
The sex trafficking of children and young people is a complex and sensitive challenge. To help the public comprehensively understand the issues, ECPAT produced a series of campaign reports that included region-specific data and recommendations for governments. The recommendations became key calls to action on the campaign petition that we submitted to governments. When public awareness grows around a call to action, the public can passionately and effectively engage in campaign advocacy.
The overwhelming support of the public for this campaign is the biggest in the history of The Body Shop! To date, we have gathered more than 6.3 million signatures for the global campaign petition since August 2010. This represents the voices of supporters asking for decision makers to do more to protect children and young people from trafficking.
Changemakers: What has the campaign accomplished so far?
Sakulpitakphon: As a result of campaign advocacy, decision makers are taking action. For example, the government of Malta has ratified the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse and is developing a sex offender registry law. The Malaysian government has committed to ratify the U.N. Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children.
Changemakers: Can child trafficking really be stopped? What can individuals and communities do to end this?
Sakulpitakphon: It is very difficult to totally eradicate any crime. However, individuals and communities have important roles to play in combating child trafficking. Individuals can learn about child trafficking, especially in the local context (how traffickers recruit/lure victims, who are the victims, etc.) and identify appropriate authorities/hotlines to report suspected cases.
They can then discuss this issue and share the information with their children, family, friends, and communities. If the community has no local hotline or designated authorities, then individuals can conduct advocacy to local authorities to set up these services. Communities can come together to focus on child protection. Setting up a “community watch-dog” or similar initiative is also very useful for prevention/protection. It is everyone’s responsibility to protect children.
Changemakers: What are the key elements of combating child sex trafficking?
Sakulpitakphon: It is important to take a comprehensive and holistic approach, as no single element can be successful on its own. The key elements to integrate are:
- Empowering children to know the dangers of traffickers and setting up initiatives that work on prevention (i.e., education initiatives in schools, at-risk communities).
- Protection (i.e., hotlines, legal guardian) and care services (i.e., medical and rehabilitation services) for at-risk children and child victims.
- In addition, the enforcement of law and punishment reflecting the grave nature of the crime should be implemented.
Changemakers: Have any regions been particularly successful with their measures to stop child sex trafficking? Why?
Sakulpitakphon: Some examples of regional initiatives that have strengthened anti-human trafficking, including child sex trafficking are:
- The Coordinated Ministerial Mekong Initiative against Human Trafficking (COMMIT Process) in Southeast Asia where the six governments of the countries along the Mekong Sub-region have created a regional plan to counter human trafficking, including working out numerous bilateral agreements between member countries for investigation and repatriation of victims etc. More information can be found here.
- The EU Commission’s Fighting against Human Trafficking. They recently appointed an Anti-Trafficking Coordinator that will monitor and follow-up on EU member state’s actions to combat human trafficking according to the “EU Directive against Human Trafficking.” More information can be found here.
Changemakers: What are the challenges you see going forward?
Sakulpitakphon: The challenges that continue to exist are:
- Most anti-human trafficking initiatives are generic and applicable to adult victims – they are not designed specifically to children.
- Not enough is being done to reduce demand for sex with children and young people.
- Prosecution and punishment remains low and not reflective of the grave nature of the crime against children.
- Law enforcement has limited capacity and resources to effectively combat human trafficking.
- Lack of specialized care and psychosocial rehabilitation for child victims.
For more information, including resources and publications, about The Body Shop & ECPAT “Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People” Campaign, please visit The Body Shop or the STOP campaign site.