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The A2J Initiative: The challenges in access to justice for child victims of sexual exploitation in a post COVID-19 era

Posted on Apr 28, 2022
The A2J Initiative: a joint effort of ECPAT Network members in nine countries and the International Secretariat to address the challenges in access to justice and right to remedies for child victims of sexual exploitation in a post COVID era

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, access to justice for child victims of sexual exploitation , was challenging—both for child victims and survivors, and for the professionals responsible for supporting them. In many countries, it remains difficult to to combine the efforts of law enforcement, prosecution services, forensics, and child protection procedures, as each one of them responds to different legal obligations, guidelines, and institutional mandates. This has had a direct impact on how institutions are applying their obligation to consider the best interests of the child.  Sadly, the lack of coordinated approaches and child-friendly procedures causes secondary victimisation as well as confusion among frontline professionals on how to put children’s rights at the centre of the process and fulfil their legal mandate. 

Recent studies have highlighted the scale of how COVID has changed the ways perpetrators exploit virtual environments, creating additional challenges and widening the scope of children at risk of being sexually exploited. These studies[1] have shed light on the lack of access to information for children both in the areas of prevention and response services. The flux brought on by the pandemic has sent shockwaves, leaving lasting effects on how cases can be detected, how the victims can gain access justice, and also across judicial and protection systems.  

The A2J Initiative is being spearheaded by ECPAT to address the challenges child victims and survivors of sexual exploitation to access justice and right to remedies. Thanks to the support of Bread for the World[2], the ECPAT International Secretariat and its Network members in Bolivia, Cambodia, Kenya, Moldova, Nepal, Pakistan, Peru, South Africa, and Uganda, will assess country-specific barriers and opportunities related to how children can access justice services in the context of sexual exploitation of children in a pandemic context, and will advocate for evidence-base changes to further improve this critical access to justice for children. This phase of the initiative, will take place during 2022 and the first quarter of 2023. 

For further information on the A2J Initiative, please contact Fabio González, ECPAT’s Senior Project Officer: