A United Nations independent expert called Monday on Honduras to increase its efforts to protect children from sexual exploitation, adding that the country still faces many challenges to ensure they are not victims of prostitution, pornography and abuse.
“Weaknesses in the education system, poverty, socioeconomic disparities, insecurity and violence all contribute to children’s vulnerability to multiple forms of economic and/or sexual exploitation,” said the special rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Najat Maalla M’jid, in the wake of a 10-day visit to the Central American country.
In a news release, Ms. Maalla M’jid warned that the rate of girls that are sexually exploited is extremely worrying, as well as the large number of young women who are pregnant due to abuse by relatives. She noted that the lack of sex education does not allow children to be aware of the inherent risks of sexual relations and early pregnancies.
“The scope of the sale and sexual exploitation continues to be difficult to determine due to the lack of systematic denunciation caused by fear of retaliation and stigmatization, as well as social tolerance for violence and the difficulty in accessing mechanisms to guarantee rapid protection and security of children,” the expert said.
During her visit, which ended Friday, Ms. Maalla M’jid met various government officials, civil society and private sector representatives. She also visited centers dedicated to the protection of children who have been victims of violence and abuse, where she spoke to children and teenagers about their experiences.
Ms. Maalla M’jid noted that reforms at a national and local level have not been effective due to a lack of coordination among institutions, limited resources, and slow judicial investigations, which do not ensure protection to victims and witnesses.
She called on the government to adopt a unified and integrated approach to address the issue, and to reinforce its police and justice mechanisms so they effectively sanction perpetrators as quickly as possible. She also stressed that progress will not be achieved without strong political will and support from U.N. agencies and the international community.
Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council to examine and report back, in an unpaid capacity, on specific human rights themes.