Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children as a Violation of Children's Rights: What Role for Regional Organizations?

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UNU Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies
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UNU-CRIS Working Papers
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The phenomena of Child Sex Tourism (CST) and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) have penetrated every corner of the world. States have gathered together to draft and adopt international legislation to protect children from and criminalize CST and CSEC. Many States have modified their national laws and adopted extraterritorial ones to fight these problems. However States are still struggling at the national, regional and international levels.

CST and SEC are global problems, the effects of which are comparable to issues related to human rights, environment, peace and other international challenges. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and civil society organizations are increasingly gaining ground and play an important role in influencing governments and other organizations through lobbying and spreading awareness about the worldwide problem of CST and CSEC. Nowadays it is normal for NGOs to acquire observer status in international organizations to assist governments at both the national and international levels and to publish their observations in a bid to contribute towards finding solutions for the challenges that governments or international organizations face. While, in the past, States were the exclusive actors cooperating to solve or bring challenging issues to the centre of attention, today NGOs and civil society groups are consulted for their help.

The world is no longer ruled and governed by Heads of State and Governments alone. Not only is the role of NGOs and civil society groups on the increase. There is also an increase in the role and presence of regional organizations (ROs). Apart from explaining the notion of CST and CSEC from a regional perspective, the objective of this study is equally to research the potential role of ROs like the African Union (AU), to help narrow the gap between national and international law in addressing CST and CSEC. It is revealed that, except for the AU, there is a problem of institutional weakness amongst ROs related to the regulation of children’s rights. So how can ROs persuade their Member States to adhere to regional norms and standards designed to protect children from CST and CSEC? What regional best practices are useful for the AU, the European Union (EU), the Organization of American States (OAS) and, eventually, the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in addressing the current institutional weaknesses that hamper effective responses in dealing with CST and CSEC? Can the existing regional human rights system (such as the African one) serve regional law and policy in contributing towards the enforcement of existing national and international law to address CST and CSEC? Is the regional African Court of Justice and Human Rights an option to sanction Member States that turn a blind eye to the problem of CST and CSEC for non compliance with regional law?

Extensive analysis is required to establish the prospective role of ROs and their contribution to achieve enforcement of children’s rights, especially when Member States in ROs fail to implement or refuse to enforce regional standards aimed at eradicating CST and CSEC.