Chloe Baury is a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow based in Bangkok, Thailand with ECPAT International, where she conducts research and analyzes information on national laws and legal procedures related to the sexual exploitation of children in Cambodia and Mauritania. Chloe graduated with a Master’s degree in International Law from Assas University (Paris) and a Master’s degree in Political Science and International Relations from Jean Moulin University (Lyon) in 2015. She also studied European Human Rights Law at Oxford University and has done volunteer work in Cambodia and for Cameroon. In this post, Chloe reflects on how she was able to put her education and experience into practice working for the protection of children’s rights.
Joining the Fight against Child Sexual Exploitation
by Chloe Baury
After graduating from university, it took me time to find out what I wanted to dedicate my life to. I had spent a number of years studying law but could not picture myself working in a law firm; I wanted to make a real difference and work for a non-profit organization. So I decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Political Science and International Relations, and during this time I quickly developed a strong interest in children’s rights. Following graduation, I left for Cambodia to work in the field of access to education. When I returned to France, I wanted to apply my newly acquired skills and knowledge to a research role in an NGO focusing on children’s rights. As a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow, I soon joined the international secretariat of ECPAT in Bangkok in June 2017. ECPAT is an international NGO network dedicated to the fight against sexual exploitation of children.
When I arrived, I quickly realized that my knowledge of the subject was limited. In my mind, the sexual exploitation of children was an issue that mostly happened in developing countries and was related to tourism or trafficking. However, what I learned at ECPAT was that this phenomenon happens everywhere, and can take many forms: sex tourism, pornography, trafficking, child marriage, prostitution. Children—girls and boys—are at risk in low, middle or high-income countries. No child is immune, and no country is untouched.
Since I had lived in Cambodia, my first task was to write a report on child sexual exploitation there. I had to collect information on facts, the legal framework in Cambodia, preventive measures, international and regional cooperation mechanisms, child-sensitive justice and child participation measures. The amount of reports and articles on the matter was impressive, even though accurate data is difficult to obtain due to the secretive and clandestine nature of this crime. While writing the first draft, I thought back to all the bars and karaoke places I had seen in Cambodia where ‘child prostitution’ can potentially take place, and I realized that I might have crossed many children who were being sexually exploited whilst walking around the riverside neighbourhood of Phnom Penh or in the streets of Sihanoukville.
I then wrote a report on Mauritania and faced the opposite problem: a complete lack of information on sexual exploitation. Sexuality was a strongly taboo subject, and many customs were strongly entrenched due to religious laws and beliefs; so even when such customs were detrimental to young women, the crime was pushed underground. However, I soon realized that there were also common challenges that were most likely shared with many other countries: a lack of law enforcement, and cultural barriers that would instill a fear in victims to report such crimes. Law enforcement officials are often corrupt, and victims often are ashamed or fear social exclusion. Even worse, victims of trafficking themselves are sometimes punished for engaging in prostitution, even though they were coerced to do so. Young girls are often treated as criminals, by way of local beliefs and traditions, because they are perceived as having had extramarital sexual relationships.
Whilst writing these reports, I felt frustration, anger and a strong urge to join the fight against child sexual exploitation. The reports illustrate how vital it is to change states of mind, to raise awareness among communities, and to work with governments as well as religious leaders. Preventive measures are as important as any protective measures.
My family and friends often ask me if it is not too difficult, emotionally speaking, to read about cases of abuse and exploitation every day, all day long. I answer that I can handle it, but never get used to it. My colleagues and I are often gasping discreetly when we read testimonies or data reports. It is also difficult not to think about it outside of work: every now and then, when I cross middle-aged foreigners with a local girl or boy, I cannot help but think: “Is this girl/boy underage? Is this a case of child sexual exploitation? Should I do something?” I am now more aware of the extent of this crime, and I hope the reports will contribute to raising awareness and creating solutions to fight it.
These past four months of my fellowship have been both professionally and personally rewarding. The fellowship made it possible for me to put my education and experience into practice. The Coalition provided me with online training courses to further improve my knowledge on the protection of children’s rights. I have learned a lot and I cannot thank enough my supervisors and colleagues at ECPAT for their teaching and guidance. The experience has reassured me that working for the protection of children is the professional path on which I wish to continue.
(Photos courtesy of the author)
July 30th marks the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, as recognized by the United Nations since 2013. Human trafficking is defined as the illegal transporting of persons between countries, typically for labor or sexual exploitation purposes, and is often referred to as modern-day slavery. It is the 3rd most lucrative illegal trade practice in the world. Human trafficking is an issue that crosses borders, leaving a trace in every country on the globe. 21 million people around the world are estimated to be trafficked for forced labor or sexual exploitation; 71% of them are women and girls, while one-third of them are children.
The global community recognizes this day in order to raise awareness for the victims of human trafficking and promote their rights as the fight to put an end to this illicit trade continues. Hilton Prize Laureates ECPAT International (ECPAT) and SOS Children’s Villages (SOS) are among the organizations at the forefront of this battle. In honor of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, the Hilton Prize Coalition would like to shine a light on the work these organizations do.
Leading the effort for 25 years, ECPAT is the only international NGO that is dedicated exclusively to advocating against the sexual exploitation of children. ECPAT began in Thailand but has since grown to have a presence in 88 countries. A recipient of the Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 2013, ECPAT provides crucial research, programs, and campaigns that contribute to their vision of a world without child sex trafficking.
Tourism creates a hotspot for child sex-trafficking, and as it increases globally, it puts more of the world’s children at risk. ECPAT leads initiatives in raising awareness of this massive problem and forging strategic partnerships to combat it. This July in Madrid, ECPAT served as one of the co-hosts for the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Transition Meeting on Implementation of the Recommendations of the Global Study on Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism (SECTT), demonstrating their expertise and global leadership on the subject. This meeting placed pressure on the global community to prioritize the protection of children in lieu of the increase in tourism and its positive correlation with sex trafficking. Reports that resulted from the meeting are available here.
SOS Children’s Villages
2002 Hilton Humanitarian Prize winner SOS is dedicated to the care of orphaned and abandoned children. The organization provides care, education, health services, and emergency response for children who have lost their families or are at risk of losing them, with a priority on ensuring the rights of children and giving them a safe space just to be kids.
Displacement in areas such as Syria puts millions of children on the move and can often lead to the separation of families. Children in such areas under the pressures of conflict or socio-economic stress are at higher risk of becoming victims of child sex-trafficking. SOS Children’s Villages Emergency Response programs bring shelter and safety to vulnerable children in areas experiencing violence; these measures protect children who have lost everything from becoming victims of sexual exploitation.
The work of SOS to protect children in Syria and the surrounding region will be featured in the next project of the Hilton Prize Coalition Storytelling Program. Stay tuned for updates.
(UN Photo by Alessandro Scotti)
National Human Trafficking Awareness Day is recognized annually on January 11th. Last year, President Obama proclaimed January National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. In his address, he called upon “businesses, national and community organizations, families, and all Americans to recognize the vital role we must play in ending all forms of slavery and to observe this month with appropriate programs and activities.”
The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that currently, there are approximately 21 million people who are victims of forced labor globally. Women make up the majority of trafficked persons, and approximately half are children. In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly created the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, which involves a coordinated response for governments around the world to partner together and defeat this scourge of modern-day slavery. The Plan also calls for integrating the fight against human trafficking into the UN’s broader programs, especially for women and children.
Among the organizations working to eradicate trafficking in persons are Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize winners Covenant House and ECPAT, who have developed and expanded upon programs to combat trafficking, with a focus on youth. Both organizations frequently collaborate with their networks and local communities to raise awareness about the issues and advocate for human rights worldwide.
Below are a few examples of their efforts.
Casa Alianza / Covenant House
Casa Alianza (Spanish for “Covenant House”) won the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 2000. With this support, the organization opened Hilton Home in the center of Managua, Nicaragua, which each night can care for up to 110 boys and girls 12 – 17 years of age. Hilton Home residents include boys and girls who have been abandoned and may live on the streets, have problems with substance abuse, and/or are victims of extreme poverty, human trafficking, violence, sexual abuse and exploitation. Staff in Nicaragua provide psychological and social work support, legal services, and health and medical care to assist youth with reintegration into society.
In 2009, Casa Alianza Guatemala partnered with the U.S. Department of State to open Asociación La Alianza, which now serves as a safe house for girls between the ages of 12-18 who are victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking. The organization’s Public Education Team has also trained over 6,000 community members around anti-trafficking awareness and education, as well as 1,000 members of Guatemalan police on how to enforce anti-trafficking laws. Through these trainings with community members and collaborative media and education campaigns, Casa Alianza is truly an exemplary leader in the fight against trafficking in persons.
ECPAT International is an organization devoted to the prevention of trafficking of children, having received the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 2013. The organization was first established in Bangkok in 1990, and continues to grow as a network of 90 civil society organizations in 82 countries.
ECPAT considered 2016 to be “The Year of Action,” as 2016 marked the 20th anniversary of the first World Congress against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. ECPAT has partnered with the Regional Secretariat of the South Asia Initiative to End Violence against Children and UNICEF to organize a meeting in Sri Lanka regarding several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to trafficking in children.
The international car-service company Uber joined ECPAT USA’s network of organizations participating in the ECPAT Code, which is a voluntary industry-driven set of guidelines focused on helping travel and tourism companies prevent child sex tourism and trafficking of children. The Code is a joint venture between the tourism private sector and ECPAT. ECPAT has recognized 19 U.S. companies for their participation in The Code, highlighting their “exceptional work to integrate child protection practices into their businesses.”
For Human Trafficking Prevention Month, on January 17, 2017, ECPAT-USA is holding a special screening of “SOLD The Movie” in Los Angeles, where “celebrities, government officials, the private sector, and the public will unite for the cause, raising funds and support for ECPAT-USA’s mission to create a world where no child is bought, sold, or used for sex.”
Both Casa Alianza and ECPAT are leaders in leveraging collaborations in their efforts to eradicate modern slavery worldwide. Ahead of National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, we commend them and all other organizations and individuals working to raise awareness about these abuses around the world.
*Image from SOLD The Movie, in partnership with ECPAT-USA