Editorial comment: Child sexual exploitation

In terms of Child Rights Governance, consultations with children around Fiji, child rights was often a misunderstood concept, seen as conflicting with traditional, social and cultural norms. . Picture: JOVESA NAISUA

The revelation that sexual exploitation of children mostly affects girls between the ages of 13 and 17 years should be a concern.

In fact it must trigger action. This issue was highlighted by Save the Children Fiji program manager Ardarsh Chettiar while presenting their submissions on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence this week.

The NGO’s Situation Analysis report in 2018, he said, highlighted cases of sexual exploitation of children. In terms of Child Rights Governance, consultations with children around Fiji, he said, revealed that child rights was often a misunderstood concept, seen as conflicting with traditional, social and cultural norms.

An overwhelming number of children reported little understanding of their rights and explained that the best protection from abuse was to listen to parents and do as they were told.

Fiji, he said, was well-placed to ratify the optional protocol and report to international authorities regarding key actions, as Fiji had clearly defined laws and policies in place to provide the highest protection to all children from abuse and exploitation.

This should alert us all to the fact that we have a major issue to contend with, and we must take appropriate action. The reality, at least for many of us, is that we do not know much about the sexual exploitation of children.

The advent of the digital age, and easy access to the internet, mean there are grey areas out there that we must understand. It is difficult to shrug aside the fact that many of our children are already actively involved and engaged in social media platforms. It is just the way things have panned out. This is a reality of our lives now.

As more children become aware of social media for instance, and test the waters so to speak, they are drawn into a web that opens up endless possibilities. That is a frightening reality of life now. The web can be an overpowering element that changes lives forever. In an instant, they are drawn into a web that can be quite difficult to get out of.

Trending thoughts and activities soon become habits that slowly turn into the norm. This latest revelation confirms there is a problem that we must appreciate, and deal with. If we are reluctant to discuss child sexual exploitation then we are probably not doing enough for the protection of our children.

We have a duty to perform, for our children, our nation, and for our future.

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