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 adoptions.

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 in Thailand.

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.

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