Today marks the 30th Anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. On November 20th 1989, governments and leaders of the world made the promise to protect every child and fulfil their rights by adopting the convention. Today, it is the most ratified treaty devoted to human rights. For almost 30 years, ECPAT has been pushing governments to keep the promise they made to protect every child from sexual exploitation. A lot has been achieved, but there is still a long way to go.
In the last year alone, ECPAT made some important progress toward the vision to protect every child from sexual exploitation. We supported the Child Rights Committee in developing guidelines for member states on how they can better protect children from sexual exploitation, with help from our members in Nepal, four Nepali girls who were trafficked to Malawi were rescued, and we released numerous research papers.
Despite the achievements and progress made over the last 30 years, there is still a long way to go as new threats and challenges arise – one being the development of hardware technology.
20 years ago: 3000 reports on child sexual abuse material
Today: 18.4 million reports on child sexual abuse material
In 2018, US-based tech companies reported 45 million online child sexual abuse pictures and videos, which is twice as many compared to the year before, according to The New York Times. And with the increasing online sexual abuse material, research from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children shows an enormous growth of child sexual abuse material reports – from 3,000 to 18.4 million over the last 20 years.
ECPAT’s Trends in online child sexual abuse material report found that technology facilitates the methods for distributing child sexual abuse material and makes it easier for offenders to document sexual abuse. As technology continues to evolve, the development and documentation of child sexual abuse have become portable and more convenient for the offenders. The report shows that the extensive access to digital cameras, cell phones and laptops has greatly influenced who produces images and videos of child sexual abuse. The use of cell phones and webcams let perpetrators commit crimes more anonymously and even from their own homes.
Our research and reports continue to reveal the dangerous realities of children facing exploitation. Stronger action against these crimes is urgently needed. This means more governmental, individual and company level action needs to be taken in order to end child sexual exploitation and uphold the agreement made in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Let’s hope that we don’t have to be around to fight this issue for another 30 years.