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Vulnerable children still at risk of exploitation

Kyrgyz Republic: “Many actors, many actions, but vulnerable children still at risk of exploitation,” says UN expert

BISHKEK / GENEVA (26 April 2013) – “The full extent of the sale and sexual exploitation of children in the Kyrgyz Republic remains unknown, due to the clandestine and underground nature of the phenomena, the lack of early detection of children victims, and insufficient awareness of child sexual exploitation online,’’ warned United Nations Special Rapporteur Najat Maalla M’jid at the end of her two week visit to the country.

“Poverty, dysfunctional family environments, including due to alcohol abuse and domestic violence, early and forced marriages, child labour and bride kidnapping, are just some of the factors increasing the vulnerability of children in Kyrgyzstan,” highlighted the independent expert charged by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and report on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography in the world. “The vulnerability of children left behind by parents who leave the country as migrant workers is especially worrying.”

Ms. Maalla M’jid noted the country’s efforts to reform its child protection system, and welcomed the adoption of the 2012 Children’s Code, which foresees the creation of Family and Child Support Units at the local level, and the requirement for a court order to place children into residential institutions. She also noted the various strategies and policies recently developed in the field of child protection, including regulation of inter-country adoption.

“Such measures, if properly implemented, could effectively assist with early detection and support of vulnerable children and families at risk,” the Special Rapporteur said. “They could also help reduce the hardship experienced by many families, avoid the unnecessary institutionalization of vulnerable children, and help promote the strengthening of family ties.”

“However, many children are still not duly protected from all forms of violence, exploitation and abuse. There is insufficient meaningful psycho-social support for children and families at risk,” the expert said, stressing that placement in residential institutions remains the response of first resort, and there is an alarming absence of alternative care for children at risk, including a lack of sustainable programs to strengthen families and parenting.

“Regarding the sexual exploitation of children, I am also deeply concerned about the widespread corruption and impunity that surrounds these crimes,” she added. “I urge law enforcement agencies to take stronger steps to investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible, in a way that guarantees the safety and protection of child victims at each stage of the process.”

Ms. Maalla M’jid also noted the Government’s serious budgetary constraints, and the impact this had on staff turnover, particularly within public institutions, draining capacity, and expertise. “Despite these constraints, low cost priority actions must be taken to ensure better detection of children victims and children at risk, deliver better comprehensive care, provide more effective investigation and prosecution, establish standardized norms for residential institutions and develop alternatives to placement of children in institutions,” the expert said.

“To ensure effective protection of children, the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic must uphold its commitments through ensuring regular evaluation, follow-up and accountability mechanisms of its child protection programs,” she concluded.

During her 12-day visit, the expert visited Bishkek, Osh, Jalalabad and the Issyk-Kul Province, including the city of Karakol and surrounding villages. She met with Government representatives, at the central, district and local levels, civil society organizations, and international organizations. Ms. Maalla M’jid also visited eight residential institutions for children, both private and public. She also and met and spoke with children, including child victims of sexual exploitation.

The full findings of her visit will be finalized in a report which will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2014.

ENDS

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