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DEVELOPMENT REPORT – January 28, 2002: UNICEF Child Sex Report - 2002-01-25

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

A new report by the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, says millions of children are forced to become sex workers every year. Most of the victims are girls. Officials say they hope the report will increase public concern about the problem and lead to government action.

The study is called “Profiting from Abuse.” It tells about the sex trade in countries including India, Thailand, West Africa and Eastern and Central Europe. The report says that in Colombia and Sierra Leone, girls as young as twelve are forced to have sex with armed soldiers in an effort to defend their families.

UNICEF says children in the sex trade suffer from sexual, physical and emotional problems that can last a lifetime. They also suffer from diseases passed through sex. And they may suffer from social dishonor and rejection by their families. The study found that some of the causes for the child sex trade include poor living conditions, the illegal drug trade and organized crime.

UNICEF released the study last month before an international conference in Yokohama, Japan, on the issue. It was called The Second World Conference Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children.

UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy told the conference that the child sex trade is a form of terrorism. She said it uses children most at risk, such as refugees, war victims and children without parents.Mizz Bellamy said the sex trade continues even though more than one-hundred-ninety countries approved a historic United Nations agreement protecting the rights of children.

Delegates at the four-day conference in Yokohama approved a plan to fight the child sex trade. They called for increased communication among governments, police and legal officials. They also urged countries to put stronger laws into effect and to approve international agreements to protect children.

More than three-thousand delegates from more than one-hundred-thirty countries and private organizations attended the conference. Young victims of sexual abuse also attended. The first international conference on the problem was held in Stockholm, Sweden five years ago.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss.