Bolivia—As part of the Global Boys Initiative, ECPAT International and Consortium ECPAT Bolivia launched the Bolivia report on 27 September in La Paz, Bolivia.
The event marked a ground-breaking step forward for Bolivia, its government, and care workers engaged with youth and young children to address the sexual exploitation and abuse of boys, which remains an underreported and unexplored issue. Deputy Director of Fundación Munasim Kullakita, Mr. Ariel Ramírez, emphasised the need for comprehensive research studies in order to better understand the situation and how to support boys who have been sexually exploited in Bolivia:
“We need to ask ourselves what happens with boys that are not visible when we talk about sexual exploitation?”
Bolivian authorities, civil society organisations, UN agencies, experts, and private sector representatives were invited for a presentation of the report’s key findings, discuss the current situation of child sexual exploitation in Bolivia, and how to address gaps in the current support services available for boys.
‘Boys should be ‘brave’ and ‘not show signs of weakness.’
The Bolivia report found that social and gender norms that dictate boys should be ‘brave’ and ‘not show signs of weakness’ discourage them from disclosing sexual violence, for fear of being seen as weak. The fear of being perceived as homosexual was also identified as a significant barrier to reporting. Ms. Anelisse Cruz Castro, Programmes Manager at Fundación Munasim Kullakita, noted that:
“Fear is one of the main elements to why boys do not seek assistance and help from the child protection system.”
Fundación Munasim Kullakita’s Bernardo Tancara highlighted the importance of recognising the signs of sexual violence, which is often masked by other issues, such as substance abuse or gang violence. He also noted the challenges faced when communicating with boys living in street situations, particularly around discussions on sex or sexual violence:
“From experiences of boys themselves in the streets, we have learnt to recognise many of the issues they face every day. Many time boys will not talk about sexuality because of machismo, and we had to construct and gain trust little by little.”
The event concluded with organisations agreeing on the need to develop inclusive and accessible support services for boys.
Organisations in attendance included: Munasim Kullakita Foundation; Caritas Bolivia; General Directorate of Human Trafficking and Smuggling of Persons under the Ministry of Government; Bolivian Police through the Division of Human Trafficking and Smuggling of Persons; Autonomous Departmental and Municipal Governments of La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz; Caritas Switzerland in Bolivia; UNICEF Bolivia.
ABOUT THE GLOBAL BOYS INITIATIVE:
At the 2016 Global Survivors Forum organised by ECPAT International, male survivor-advocates of sexual exploitation explained that services for boys were extremely rare, and even where services may include boys in their work, there is limited focus on addressing the specific characteristics, experiences and supports required by boys.
In 2019 to delve into this, ECPAT co-authored an academic paper that looked at the global situation of sexual exploitation of boys. It showed that despite a growing global awareness that boys do experience sexual exploitation, and at greater rates than previously recognised, there is limited research available to fully tell this story.
As the programmatic responses to identify and meet the particular needs of boys are scarce, ECPAT International launched the Global Initiative to explore the sexual exploitation of boys which activates our global network of member organisations in a range of research and response activities.
Learn more about the Global Boys Initiative here.