Young people, including survivors of trafficking, from Nepal, Bangladesh and India have gathered in Kathmandu to call on their governments to better protect children from commercial sexual exploitation [CSE] and trafficking.
Following a three-day meeting early this month (December 2007), vulnerable children presented their own recommendations to Nepal’s Prime Minister, Mr Girija Prasad Koirala.
As well as calling on the government to ensure that existing laws on trafficking are upheld and those who break them are punished, the young delegates asked for new legislation and called upon religious leaders from all faiths to work with them on the issue.
The children are members of the Youth Partnership Project South Asia [YPP], a unique initiative in which young people who are at-risk or who have experience of CSE, take the lead in supporting one another, offering help to children in dangerous red-light and border areas, organising awareness campaigns and advocating for changes to the law to prevent these forms of abuse. So far the YPP has reached out to over 50,000 children.
The project is implemented by MAITI Nepal in Kathmandu, Aparajeyo-Bangladesh in Dhaka and SANLAAP in Kolkata, managed by ECPAT [End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and the Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes]. They are funded by Comic Relief and Christian Aid in the UK, among others.
Shompa Perveen, a 15-year-old YPP member from Bangladesh, said: "We have been discussing these recommendations for a long time and we feel we are experts on these issues. We want the people in power in all three countries [Bangladesh, Nepal and India] to listen – but more importantly – act on what we say."
Research suggests that the number of children and young people who are trafficked and exploited for sexual and commercial purposes is growing, with estimates as high as 350,000 in India, 40,000 in Nepal and 29,000 in Bangladesh.
ECPAT’s director Carmen Madriñán said: "Every child has the right to live free from trafficking for sexual purposes and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation. The YPP demonstrates that young people can effectively reach out to other child survivors and youth who are at risk. And not only that, today’s meeting with government, NGOs and media, shows that young people are uniquely placed to lead the fight against commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking."
The YPP delegates also highlighted the vital need for survivors of trafficking to be given legal identity cards, and called on SAARC [the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation] and the United Nations to suspend the membership of countries which fail to uphold existing agreements to protect children from these abuses.
YPP representatives from Bangladesh and India are making the same recommendations to government ministers upon their return to Dhaka and Kolkata.