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UNICEF Paves the Way to the Abolition of Child Soldiers and Child Sex Tourism

By Bryson Koh, TIME

Published: 18 Mar 2019 - 06:55 AM

A boy in the midst of in the conflict

A boy in the midst of in the conflict

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) will be discussing the issues of Children Recruitment in Armed Forces and Child Sex Tourism, which are two extremely pressing and prevalent issues that impact the children of our neighboring nations, leading to both physical and psychological complications that follow them throughout their lives.

Children Recruitment in Armed Forces is a problem that continues to persist in the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia. The international committee has recognized the need to protect children from military exploitations and developed various international treaties such as the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (OPAC) to combat this problem.

However, with technological advancements in recent years, modern warfare’s weapons and equipment have become easier to obtain and handle. This makes training child soldiers less expensive and exacerbates the problem of recruiting children. In 2015 alone, the UN has verified 274 cases of children being recruited by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the Syrian Arab Republic. Even though the UN has implemented these protocols, child soldiers continue to be increasingly prevalent in the world. As such, UNICEF continues to analyze the causes for the ineffectiveness of international protocols and is exploring other policies to strengthen children’s legal protection.

The debate over the exploitation of children in Child Sex Tourism (CST), is also a problem that is prevalent in Less Economically Developed Countries (LEDCs) such as Mexico, Africa and East Asia. This is due to the disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds that increase a child’s likelihood of joining the CST industry. However, a major stakeholder behind the rising increase in CST comes from tourists from More Economically Developed Countries (MEDCs) such as the United States, Canada and China. In fact, the majority of the demand for prostitution are from tourists. With this problem, the governments of MEDCs have worked together with UNICEF to enforce laws to combat it and deter offenders from engaging in CST.

But, with the evolvement of technology paving the way to webcam CST on the Internet, it is becoming increasingly difficult to trace and arrest offenders as they are committing these acts on virtual platforms without crossing international borders. Furthermore, due to the problem of poverty in LEDCs, children from low income families have a higher chance of falling prey to CST, as prostitution offers them lucrative salaries which hold promises of a better life. For instance, in Kenya, children are forced to support their low-income families by joining the CST industry. 10,000 to 15,000 underage girls in the coastal towns of Malindi, Mombasa, Kilifi and Diani are reported to have been exploited by tourists. Even though the UN continues to help children through reintegration, it is difficult for them to leave the CST industry due to them being discriminated against and having a low educational level, crippling their ability to find other jobs. As such, UNICEF continues to work with other nations towards protecting the mental and physical wellbeing of the children involved in CST by improving current child protection frameworks, while also not infringing upon the sovereignty and economy of nations.

Over the course of these debates, UNICEF and the member states within it are ultimately working towards the rights of a child.

All children, no matter the gender, race or skin color, deserve to survive and live carefree lives. They do not deserve to be traumatized, both physically and mentally. As such, discussing about these prevalent issues are the key to their freedom and happiness. By reintegrating them back into the lives that they deserve, they can then truly live like children.