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UNICEF: Battling for children’s rights

By Magdalene Tong, Agence France-Presse

Published: 18 Mar 2019 - 07:06 AM

Picture of children in India suffering from poverty, yet hopeful towards life. However, they have became more exposed to CST and becoming child soldiers.

Picture of children in India suffering from poverty, yet hopeful towards life. However, they have became more exposed to CST and becoming child soldiers.

The UNICEF will be discussing two issues. Firstly, the UNICEF will be discussing the issue of “Children Recruitment in Armed Forces’, a pressing issue that has to be addressed as it infringes the rights of a child, causing them to suffer both psychological and physical damage.

Over the past 40 years, UNICEF has recognised the need to protect children from military exploitations. Despite this, there are still countries in the Central African Republic, Middle East and Southeast Asia recruiting children into Armed Forces. As such, the debate will deal with the protection of children as poverty and tough circumstances is a reason for many children to enter armed forces.

To solve this issue, international protocols such as the Optimal Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (OPCA) have been implemented to curb the problem. Despite the implementation of such policies, the existence of child soldiers are still increasingly prevalent in the world. This is mainly due to technological advancements that make weapons and equipment easier to obtain and handle. Thus, the UNICEF is exploring the reasons for the ineffectiveness of the protocols and suggesting better ways to deal with it.

On the other hand, it is also critical to discuss the issue of reintegrating child soldiers into society. As a result of being surrounded in violence, their mental well being suffers severe and detrimental impacts. Thus, UNICEF is also looking into the barriers the child soldiers face when trying to reintegrate into society and proposing measures to deal with them.

Secondly, the UNICEF would also be discussing the issue of “Combating Child Sex Tourism”, another problematic issue in our society today. Besides depriving the children of their rights, it is also greatly disrespectful towards them and severely impacts them in terms of how they view the world and the future they deserve.

Every year, millions of children are bought and sold with the intention of sexual exploitation, including Child Sex Tourism (CST). According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), an estimated number of 150 million girls and 73 million boys under the age of 18 experience sexual exploitation or other forms of sexual violence. The large number shown emphasises the importance for us to be firm and stop this existing issue quickly. In countries that are less developed, they often rely on CST to support their economy, indirectly encouraging this to continue. Tourists from more economically developed countries are also wealthier and engage in CST, making CST thrive further. The main reason for the children to be involved in CST is the poverty that these children suffer from, resulting in them being more willing to be involved in the sex industry due to the high salaries they would receive. At the same time, they are unaware about the negative impacts that would result, both mental and physical.

Another concern is the well-being of the children after getting involved in the sex industry, as the experience would be a stigma on them reintegrating into the society in future. The effectiveness of psychological treatments for these victims is insufficient as they do not cater to the specific needs of them. Furthermore, help is inaccessible for most of the victims in CST. For instance, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NPSCC) has strict criteria to access its local mental health services, preventing many victims from seeking help. Next, one of the problems is the loopholes in the both the domestic and international law. Domestic laws are often ineffective due to the differing laws amongst nations, making the level of punishments different for similar offences. On the other hand, CST can occur virtually through webcams without crossing international borders with the internet advancements. Thus, international laws are also ineffective as the use of the internet makes it harder for the offenders to be traced. As such, UNICEF is looking into strengthening the various laws to deter offenders from engaging in CST.

Both the recruitment of children in armed forces and child sex tourism must be eliminated as it is evident that the short and long-term repercussions on the children themselves are irreversible, ruining their life from a young age. It is important that we face this pressing problem squarely and deal with it, protecting the basic human rights that a child deserves.