The Straits Times (Singapore)
MAY 10 1997
Pact to stop global trade of kids gaining support
By R. Senthilnathan in Vienna
AFTER years of discussions and debates, governments have made
considerable progress on working out a convention to prevent
hundreds of thousands of young children being sold and
trafficked worldwide each year.
According to United Nations crime division officials in Vienna,
most of the 50 plus countries which submitted to the ongoing UN
Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice their
views on a possible convention have voiced their support for a
treaty provided it does not overlap with other treaties dealing
with parts of the problem.
UN and other officials point out that it is difficult to quantify the
number of children -- by present international definition those
below the age of 18 -- involved as a good part of it is done on the
quiet, and in many cases the victims do not report it.
But Mr Ralph Krech, a senior official dealing with juveniles at
the Vienna-based UN Division of Crime Prevention and Criminal
Justice, said that the number runs into hundreds of thousands
annually. According to Argentinean officials, for instance,
irregularities were found out in roughly 17 per cent of the
The issue of sale and trafficking of young children received
international exposure after the kidnappings, abuse and brutal
murder of a number of young girls in Belgium.
In GERMANY, Mr Krech added, about 440 children were
missing at any given time.
The issue of sale and trafficking of children, particularly young
girls, is not a new phenomenon.
As early as 1933, the rapporteur appointed by the League of
Nations Advisory Committee for the Protection and Welfare of
Children and Young People submitted a report outlining the
seriousness of the issue of trafficking of young women in Asia.
According to a document submitted to the present Commission,
currently in session here, there are three major purposes for the
global level for sale and trafficking of children: the first, and most
documented one, is the inter-country adoption.
Each year, thousands of children are transported from Asia,
Central and Eastern Europe and Latin America to the West
through legal or illegal means. Increasingly, the report added,
there were also intra-regional adoptions, such as those from
Thailand to Malaysia. The second purpose is trafficking for
labour. Some of them are exported, such as young Pakistanis to
Persian Gulf to work as camel jockeys and children from Haiti to
the Dominican Republic to work in the sugar-cane plantations
and from the poor regions of Cambodia, China and Laos to work
The third major purpose is trafficking for sexual exploitation. In
the recent past, an increasing number of cross-border sale and
trafficking from Myanmar to Thailand and from Nepal to India
have been reported. The protection of children itself is regulated
by a number of international treaties, including the 1989
Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is one of the most
universally accepted conventions.
Although the existence of regulations covering the sale and
trafficking of children give rise to the question of the need for a
separate convention, many point out that the problem is that
there is no single convention which covers all the aspects of
trafficking and its consequences. The present talks are centred on
a convention that will have two main features: the sale and
trafficking of children, and their return and rehabilitation.