HPC Fellow: Sunethra Sathyanarayanan, ECPAT International

Sunethra Sathyanarayanan is a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow working with ECPAT International. At ECPAT International, Sunethra worked alongside the Research and Policy Team on several projects. In her blog, Sunethra reflects on her most significant projects, including Country Overview Reports on Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iraq. 

Sifting through legislation to eradicate the sexual exploitation of children
Sunethra Sathyanarayanan

As every other new graduate from my Master of Laws course in Leiden University, I was excited and eager to take all that I have learnt, nurture it, and transform it into something that would contribute to further the cause of human rights. Therefore, I spent months scouring the internet for the best organizations that would not only provide me with work that I would be good at, but would also allow me to make contributions of which I could be proud. That is how I stumbled upon ECPAT International, a global network of organizations that works to eliminate all forms of sexual exploitation of children. After an intense selection process, I found myself packing my bags and moving halfway across the world to Bangkok to start my new internship.

Currently, as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow at ECPAT International, I assist the Research and Policy Team on several projects. Some of my most significant projects included preparing an annotated bibliography and review on all the existing literature that deals with the ethical principles of research on sexual exploitation of children and preparing an ECPAT Country Overview Report on Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iraq. Although all my projects were interesting, I faced peculiar challenges while writing the Country Report on Bosnia.

Even though the country has been virtually unified by the Dayton Peace Agreement, the administrative structure of the country remains a complex concoction of elements that do not mix. It has a highly fragmented system of government. The entire country is mainly divided into three parts- the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Replublika Srpska, and the Brcko District. This level of decentralization has also seeped into the legal framework in the country, with each administration jurisdiction having its own legislations on the same subject matter.

The challenge that I particularly faced here is that, although I had begun the project anticipating to research on the context of sexual exploitation of children in one country, I ended up sifting through four different legislations and governmental policies – one for each administrative jurisdiction and a central one. Before I knew it, my task had quadrupled. The fact that most of these legislations and documents existed in either Bosnian or Serbian made my task slightly more complicated to say the least, as I knew neither.

My colleagues and supervisors at ECPAT quickly jumped in to my rescue at this point. This is when I understood the greatest advantage of being a researcher at an organization that serves as a network hub – its Partners. I was quickly put in touch with ECPAT’s partner in Bosnia, an NGO called IFS- EMMAUS. The partners in Bosnia actively helped me find information that was not easily available and helped me greatly with clarifying the content of certain important documents when 13 hours with my Google Translate failed me. While I appreciated the help and support that I received from IFS-EMMAUS, it was also a very interesting experience for me to connect with an organization that works in the field.

With the help of my colleagues in ECPAT and IFS-EMMAUS and after an intense struggle of over two months, my report on the country finally concluded. It gave me an insight into the different ways that are used by predators to sexually exploit children in a world driven by information and communication technology, commercial businesses and tourism industry. Although it was difficult to ingest some of the facts and figures that popped up during research, I was able to push through it hoping that the documentation of such facts in this report would someday enable policy changes that would protect a child from being sexually exploited.

The ECPAT Country Overview Report on Bosnia and Herzegovina is scheduled to be published later this year. Being a Hilton Prize Fellow at ECPAT International has been an enlightening experience. It has certainly reinforced my passion for human rights. I am grateful to the Hilton Prize Coalition for enabling me to pursue such an enriching opportunity and to ECPAT International for helping me take the next step in my career with more confidence than when I started.

(Photos courtesy of ECPAT International)

About The Hilton Prize Coalition

The  Hilton Prize Coalition  is an independent alliance of the 22 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the  Fellows Program, the  Collaborative Models Program  and the  Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat,  Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit  prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact  prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow  the Hilton Prize Coalition on  Twitter and  LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

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