Report: significant progress on child exploitation
There has been significant progress in the fight against the commercial sexual exploitation of children, but we cannot afford to be complacent, Justice Minister Mark Burton said today.
The comments mark the release of a stocktake report of the National Plan of Action (NPA) against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, entitled Protecting our Innocence, which charts progress since the NPA was adopted in 2001.
"The purpose of the NPA was to put in place measures to stop the four main types of commercial sexual exploitation of children, namely: child pornography, child sex tourism, trafficking of children for sexual purposes and child prostitution.
"The stocktake makes clear that there has been good progress toward all of the Plan's objectives over the past five years, and that many specific tasks have been achieved.
"It is pleasing that the record of action since 2001 has been a largely positive one, but there is no room for complacency if we are to achieve our goal of completely eliminating the commercial sexual exploitation of children," Mark Burton said.
"Because of the many ways in which these crimes can manifest themselves it is important to approach solutions through partnerships across government and non-government agencies. The best victories are when we stop incidents of commercial sexual exploitation happening at all.
"In the past five years New Zealand's law has been strengthened, so that people who exploit children can be more easily caught and punished.
"It is also critical that we provide assistance to the victims of commercial sexual exploitation. In the past five years the government has increased funding for victim support, and proposed legislative change to better protect child witnesses."
Some of the key achievements in the past five years include:
- In 2002, new laws were introduced making the maximum punishment for people trafficking 20 years imprisonment, with a maximum fine of $500,000;
- The Crimes Act was amended in 2005 to establish a new offence relating to the trafficking of people under 18 for the purposes of sexual exploitation or engagement in forced labour. It is anticipated that this offence will come into force later this year.
- New Zealand ratified the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the UN Convention against Trans-national Organised Crime;
- NZAID has provided funding for anti-trafficking work in Southeast Asia;
- The Prostitution Reform Act 2003 increased the penalties for using a child under the age of 18 for commercial sexual purposes. There were eight convictions under this Act up to March 2006;
- In 2005 the Prostitution Law Reform Committee published a first report into the extent of the sex industry in New Zealand;
- The Films, Videos and Publications Act 1993 was amended in 2005 to increase the maximum penalty for trading in child pornography to ten years jail. The changes also gave greater powers to enforcement agencies to search for and seize material;
- In 2004/05 Customs, Police and Internal Affairs co-operated on 'Operation Tercel', that netted child pornography offenders in New Zealand who had been identified through their international trading;
- The Internet Safety Group has helped train Police Youth Education Service (YES) officers in the delivery of Internet safety programmes to children in schools. YES officers visit around 80 percent of schools each year.
- ECPAT NZ developed a website (www.reportchildsex.com) and hotline to enable travellers to report situations they observe of children being sexually exploited overseas;
- The publication of research profiling censorship offenders by the Department of Internal Affairs in 2004. The majority of censorship offenders are child pornography offenders and the research provides insights into their offending.
The first world congress on the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) was held in 1996 in Stockholm, Sweden. The Stockholm Declaration and Agenda for Action were adopted by 122 countries, including New Zealand.
As part of the Agenda for Action, a working group of government and non-government organisations, led by the Justice Ministry, developed the NPA against CSEC. The NPA was presented by the New Zealand delegation at the second world congress against CSEC in Yokohama, Japan in 2001.
The NPA set out 13 objectives with related activities to be undertaken by designated government and non-government agencies. Information was collected from these agencies about progress that had been achieved since 2001. The Ministry of Justice conducted the stocktake, in collaboration with ECPAT NZ.
Agencies that provided information for the Stocktake were: Justice; ECPAT; Customs; Police; Internal Affairs; Education; Foreign Affairs and Trade; Corrections; Child, Youth and Family; Labour; Social Development; Youth Development; Health; Office of the Children's Commissioner; Human Rights Commission; NZ Law Society; NZ Prostitutes Collective; and the Internet Safety Group.