Children in sex industry of ASEAN cry for implementation of legally binding agreements
A report by ILOs in 2017 estimated that 152 million children are involved in child labor worldwide, of which 73 million are in hazardous work, including situations where they are engaged in child prostitution. Addressing child prostitution is an important part of addressing child labor. The United Nations have defined child prostitution as 'the use of a child in sexual activities for remuneration or any other form of consideration'. Exact numbers of children in prostitution are not accurately known, the problem with the sensitivity of the subject and locating all the affected children makes the available statistic defective, but estimated numbers show that as many as 10 million children are engaged in prostitution worldwide.
Findings of a research by Linnéa Johansson indicates that, in the Southeast Asia region, human trafficking a widespread, and most of the trafficked children and women are exposed to sexual exploitation. Children and young adults are specifically vulnerable in this region, and the most of them are forced into the prostitution. Thailand and Cambodia are the centers of the region's trafficking industry with the most children ending up in the commercial sex industry.
Vietnamese children are also vulnerable to trafficking and prostitution, in Cambodia alone, one-third of the child prostitutes are estimated to be Vietnamese. The Philippines is one of the countries with the most considerable and widespread problem of sexual exploitation of children, especially child prostitution.
The rights of children were particularly set forth in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) from 1989, and in 2000 the United Nations complemented CRC with a protocol which especially pointed out the need of protecting children from sexual exploitation, the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography, also called the Sex Trafficking Protocol. This protocol points out the vulnerability of children, and particularly girls, to sexual exploitation. It forbids child pornography, the sale of children and child prostitution and enhances the importance of international cooperation towards improving the criminal justice against children.
As of 2016, 173 countries have signed and made sanctions according to the protocol, additionally, 9 countries have signed but not yet made sanctions. Even though most countries have implemented national laws forbidding commercial sexual exploitation of children, a lot of children are still being victimized by horrifying sexual acts in countries around the world because of defective laws which do not match the international law of the protection of children.
All the researched countries in the study by Linnéa Johansson are members of the organization Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which has agreed on more than 80 different legislation. A lot of the legislation has focused on children's protection and rights, they passed the Declaration on the Commitments for Children in 2001 that aimed to fulfill the same standard as that of the CRC. In the years after the organization adopted a lot of declarations against trafficking and violence, especially towards women and children, and in 2013 the Human Rights Declaration was adopted which has a part that enhanced the importance of protecting the children of the region from exploitation. Even though these legally binding agreements have been accepted by all the members, there still are states that have failed to implement them nationally and follow them effectively.