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NEW THEMATIC REPORT: Unrecognised Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children in Child, Early and Forced Marriage

Posted on Oct 28, 2015

NEW THEMATIC REPORT: Unrecognised Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children in Child, Early and Forced Marriage

The 10th Asia Pacific Regional Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect (APCCAN2015) took place from 25-28 October 2015 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with the theme of ‘Investing in Children: Every Child Counts’.

ECPAT, Plan International and APCCAN co-hosted a Panel on Child Marriage during the conference, and a new Thematic Report supported by Plan International was launched, titled, Unrecognised Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children in Child, Early and Forced Marriage.

The paper aims to contribute to examining the broadly unexplored, yet critical links existing between two kinds of severe violations of children's rights – Child, Early and Forced Marriage and Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children.

As a joint effort of ECPAT International and Plan International, the paper argues that early marriage acts as a major channel to child sexual exploitation, and can also amount to a form of sexual exploitation of children in itself. It investigates, in particular, the impact of early marriage on child protection, focusing on ways by which, in most regions of the world where this traditional harmful practice is perpetuated, it exposes child brides to early forced sexual initiation and activity, non-consensual sex, unwanted pregnancies, trafficking, forced child labour, and being exchanged for the payment of a bride price.

‘As child, early and forced marriage continues to be perpetuated across the world, it is extremely important to consistently build evidence on its harmful effects on child development. This ground-breaking report examines often hidden linkages between child marriage and sexual abuse and exploitation, contributing to building a stronger case for its prohibition and eradication. It will serve as a powerful advocacy tool to reiterate the importance of a child rights based perspective and will inform a range of programmatic actions, both in terms of prevention and response’, said Mr. Raša Sekulović, Plan International Asia Regional Adviser, Child Rights and Protection.    

One in three girls in the developing world is affected by child marriage. Understanding the plea of prematurely married children and finding ways to prevent child, early and forced marriage is a necessary route toward achieving gender equality and the eradication of sexual exploitation of children by 2030, as pledged by the international community in the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals agenda.

Dorothy Rozga, ECPAT International Executive Director, said: ‘It is ECPAT’s hope that more agencies and partner organizations will benefit from the knowledge in the thematic report and that it will contribute to increasing investments and improving policies protecting children from forced marriage and sexual exploitation’.

The full Thematic Report is available in English here and French here.

Background information:

ECPAT is a global network of 85 organisations working together in 77 countries for the elimination of all forms of child sexual exploitation. ECPAT International has been leading the global discussion on the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) and is recognised as a strong and cohesive child rights advocacy network speaking on behalf of vulnerable children and child victims of sexual exploitation for the past 25 years. For more information about ECPAT and its work, please visit

Plan International is a child-centred community development organisation working with children, their families, communities, organisations and governments to promote child rights to end child poverty. When children and adults work together as part of the change process, it is more likely that programmes will be successful and sustainable. Founded over 70 years ago, Plan is one of the oldest and largest children’s development organisations in the world. We work in 50 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas to promote child rights and lift millions of children out of poverty. For more information on Plan International, please visit

The Post-2015 Development Agenda, adopted in September 2015, includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 specific targets, which replace the Millennium Development Goals and are to be achieved by 2030. The SDGs include targets directly related to ending sexual exploitation of children, such as:

5.2: ‘Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation’. 

5.3: ‘Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation’.

8.7: ‘Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour (…) by 2025’. Convention No. 182 of the International Labour Organization has clearly defined the worst forms of child labour as including the sale and trafficking of children, as well as the use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution or the production of pornography.

16.2: ‘End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children’.

For more information about APCCAN, please visit