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Protection for Children Against Sexual Exploitation

Children who are victims of child prostitution, exploitation, trafficking and sexual abuse deserve every protection we can offer.
- Carole Bellamy, UNICEF

A new international tool raises the standards in protecting children from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse. The Optional Protocol on Sex Trafficking to the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child, has entered into force. The United States has not yet ratified either the Optional Protocol or the Convention on the Rights of the Child. A coalition of US non-governmental organizations is working to support ratification of the Optional Protocol (

The Problem
Approximately one million children, mostly girls, become a part of the worldwide, multi-billion dollar commercial sex trade each year. Girls, and sometimes boys, are coerced with promises of education and a "good" job. In some situations, children are abducted and forced into sexual slavery. The most vulnerable children are those who are refugees, orphans, abandoned by families, child laborers working as domestic servants, and those affected by war. The trend of recruiting younger girls in the sex trade is based on the myth that girls are unlikely to be infected with HIV.

The Agreement
The Optional Protocol on Sex Trafficking calls for governments to implement measures to:

  • Punish adults who support and run the sex trade;

  • Coordinate investigations and legal actions with other governments;

  • Take action to end child sexual abuse, especially among vulnerable groups;

  • Deliver programs to ensure that children who have been involved in the sex trade receive appropriate medical, social and educational services.

Countries That Have Ratified
To date, 16 countries have ratified the Optional Protocol and 89 countries have taken the first step in the ratification process by signing it. In the United States, President Clinton signed the Optional Protocol in 2000; it was sent to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for action. If the U.S. Senate were to ratify the Optional Protocol, the United States would be in a better position to address one of the world?s worst human rights abuses, the sexual exploitation of children. It is possible for the United States to ratify the Optional Protocol without ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Countries That Have Ratified the Optional Protocol on Sex Trafficking
Democratic Republic of Congo
Holy See
Sierra Leone
Viet Nam