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Oct 26, 2006

Child prostitution in Belize is no myth, says report

Story PictureIn the news media we’re always hearing rumours of child prostitution in Belize, but today a new study claims that sexual exploitation of children is not a myth.

Dianne Haylock, Project Coordinator
?Children and adolescents under the age of eighteen from seventeen downwards are being paid to have sexual relations with adults. The majority, the overwhelming majority of cases were men but in a couple of the cases they were women.?

Jacqueline Godwin, Reporting
The study on the commercial sexual exploitation of children, C.S.E.C., was conducted to further strengthen the child protection measures that in some cases have failed to keep Belize?s youngest and most vulnerable citizens safe. The report not only confirms that children are given money for sexual favours but it identifies the root causes. Although the study does not measure an overall extent of the problem, the evidence presented is disturbing. Like the case of a four year old child, who was prostituted and contracted a sexually transmitted disease.

Dianne Haylock
?How a four year old be commercially exploited sexually? Parent involvement. The child is wooed by an older man with sweets, food and all of those things and the mother eventually finds out and she continues, she allows it to continue to happen and she benefits financially from this man. This child actually ran away from home and the way the case came to the attention of the service providers is not because that was happening but the child ended up with an S.T.I.?

The little girl was just one of thirty victims interviewed. The report reveals that some parents pimp their sons and daughters to get the money they need to meet expenses. The children are either forced to have sexual intercourse, or pose for pornographic photos.

Dianne Haylock
?They see it not as a crime but their means of surviving, helping their family to survive to survive, but at the end of the day it does not make it right. It is a crime being committed against your child. And so there is a major challenge then in how do you deal with these parents who are actually complicit in the commercial sexual exploitation of their children.?

The International Labour Organization, I.L.O. defines C.S.E.C. as a worst form of child labour.

Sandra Hall, Chairperson, N.C.F.C.
?We cannot allow our children to be abused and abused and abused. And we have to rally our people to stand up for something and if we cannot stand up for our children I do not know what else we are going stand up for.?

The study was a joint effort by Child Labour Subcommittee of the National Committee for Families and Children, the I.L.O. and the international Program elimination of Child Labour. The one hundred and fifty-eight page publication highlights the challenges that have prevented the eradication of the problem.

Project coordinator Dianne Haylock says the research reveals that the laws have not really addressed the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

Dianne Haylock
?There is some talk in the law about child prostitute, but even calling a child a prostitute is wrong. If one looks at the international definition of what is a prostitute right, so even the terminology that is used in the laws of the country are antiquated. So there is a need to really look at what is going on in the various institutions that has something to deal with this issue or should be dealing with this issue.?

Following today?s presentation on the findings of the study, a strategic planning session was held to determine what concrete actions can be taken to respond to the problem.

Sandra Hall
?I hope that we will be able to get the commitment of all the key players. The political directorate because we must have the political will, the teachers, the churches, our NGO community, our communities where our children live and grow and most of all our parents, our families.?

Over one hundred and fifty people were interviewed for the study.

The I.L.O. and I.P.E.C. have conducted similar studies in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and the Dominican Republic.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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