Leaders from 132 nations convened today at the Second World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children to create further measures to protect children from sex trafficking and the sex industries. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that more than one million children, primarily girls, are forced into the sex trade each year. In the United States alone, between 244,000 and 325,000 women and children are victims of commercial sexual exploitation. The Congress is expected to call for tougher laws and more comprehensive international partnerships to protect children from commercial sexual exploitation. The Congress will also address poverty, gender discrimination, war, organized crime, globalization, and the drug trade, among other topics that UNICEF has identified as being “underlying causes of commercial sexual exploitation of children.” UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy set the tone for the Congress on opening day saying, “The commercial sexual exploitation and abuse of children is nothing less than a form of terrorism – one whose wanton destruction of lives and futures must not be tolerated for another year.”
The Second World Congress against Commercial Exploitation of Children, held in Yokohama, Japan and organized by UNICEF, the government of Japan, ECPAT International, and the Non-Governmental Organization Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child, will meet until December 20.