Gaps In Stocktake Of Child Exploitation
Glaring gaps in Government stocktake on commercial sexual exploitation of children
A Stocktake on New Zealand’s National Plan of Action against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children has some glaring gaps in it, says long-time campaigner Denise Ritchie of Stop Demand Foundation.
Stop Demand, whose input was not even sought on the Stocktake, is not surprised. “This Report appears to be largely about form rather than substance”, says Denise Ritchie.
Minister Mark Burton today listed a raft of laws intended to protect children from exploitation. “It is one thing to pass laws, it is quite another to enforce them and give them the teeth and substance that they purport to have,” says lawyer Denise Ritchie.
“The Minister seems to have glossed over the fact that despite a law dating back 11 years, to prosecute New Zealanders who sexually exploit foreign children, not one such perpetrator has been charged . Even more disturbingly,” says Stop Demand, “is the fact that the sop handed out to the public three years ago by politicians supporting the decriminalisation of prostitution, that there would be a crackdown on under age prostitution in New Zealand, has turned out to be an utter farce. Despite eight convictions relating to brothel owners and the like, men are sexually exploiting our children and young people on a nightly basis, most visibly in the streets of South Auckland and Christchurch, with utter impunity. Without effective law enforcement, these hollow laws are meaningless.”
Another concerning feature of the Stocktake is the silence around those who fuel demand. “At the Yokohama Congress, there was a real push for governments to address and challenge attitudes and behaviours that fuel demand. The 13 objectives set out in the Stocktake make no mention of this commitment. This is not just about putting laws in place; it is about awareness raising and making inroads into finding out why so much sexual exploitation and violence against children exists in this country and abroad”, says Ritchie. “To constantly focus on supply issues, that is, children, without putting equal emphasis on reducing demand, is an ongoing strategic weakness.”
“The Justice Minister refers to the four key areas of child prostitution, child sex tourism, child sex trafficking and child pornography. The only area that New Zealand has any cause to make positive statements about is that of tackling child sex abuse image offending, thanks largely to the excellent work of the Department of Internal Affairs,” says Ritchie.