“The safety and well-being of the world’s children must remain a global priority,” said Her Royal Highness Princess Madeleine of Sweden, co-founder of #EyesWideOpen initiative of the World Childhood Foundation (WCF).
Today, the World Childhood Foundation USA (WCF) announced the findings of ‘Out of the Shadows: Shining light on the response to child sexual abuse and exploitation,’ a 40-country benchmarking Index, representing 70% of the world’s children, which was developed through a first-of-its-kind research program conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) with support from the World Childhood Foundation, the Oak Foundation and the Carlson Family Foundation. The Index measures countries’ responses to child sexual abuse and exploitation. This groundbreaking tool will help countries to track their progress toward reaching Sustainable Development Goal target 16.2: ”ending abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against, and torture of, children by 2030.”
”With approximately 200 million of the world’s children experiencing sexual violence each year, the need to document and benchmark the global effort to prevent child sexual violence has never been more important. The Out of the Shadows report provides vital data to track the efforts of countries to end child sexual abuse and exploitation,” added HRH Princess Madeleine.
The objective of this research effort is to help raise global awareness and mobilize action to address the global epidemic of child sexual abuse and exploitation. The Index will give policymakers, the public and influencers around the world a clearer understanding of the issue and help identify best practices and areas for attention. The Index assesses the extent to which countries are acknowledging and responding to the problem of sexual violence against children.
The Index framework was developed in close consultation with the global expert community. The quantitative and qualitative data in the Index were collected and analyzed between February and December of 2018 by The EIU project team, employing country experts and regional specialists from its global network. The Index focuses on 4 categories:
– Legal Framework
– Government Commitment and Capacity
– Engagement of industry, civil society and media
The important focus areas in EIU’s research for the Out of the Shadows study included examining engagement and response from the private sector, particularly information and communications technology and the travel and tourism industries. For companies that share data and content online, such as Internet Service Providers and mobile telecoms operators, the existence of a notice and takedown system, which allows members of the public to report potentially unlawful CSA content, has emerged as a global solution and is present in 28 of the 40 countries in the Index.
In the travel and tourism industry, growth of the sexual exploitation of children over the past two decades is linked to increased international and domestic travel, cheaper flights, and the use of mobile technologies. ”The Out of the Shadows Index is a step towards understanding how effective our collective response has been to the tragic and pernicious problem of child sex abuse and exploitation globally and country-by-country. Its rigorous data-driven approach gives us the ability to evaluate the best way forward to attain the ultimate Sustainable Development Goal of ending all child trafficking by 2030,” said Kurt Ekert, president & CEO of Carlson Wagonlit Travel. ”As an organization that operates in the travel and tourism industry, we oppose the use of travel and other advances in technology to engage in child sex abuse and exploitation. We applaud the Carlson Family Foundation for supporting this first-of-its- kind benchmarking tool, and we are firmly committed to tracking progress in fighting child sex trafficking and protecting all children from this type of abuse.”
The countries of the Index were scored out of 100 and the countries with the highest overall scores are: 1. United Kingdom (82.7), 2. Sweden (81.5), 3. Canada (75.3), 4. Australia (74.9) and 5. the United States (73.7). (Scores and other additional Index details for all 40 countries are available at: outoftheshadows.eiu.com)
Overall Key findings from the Out of the Shadows study demonstrate that:
– Child sexual abuse (CSA) and child sexual exploitation (CSE) are pressing concerns for both wealthy and poor countries alike.
– Social norms and attitudes toward sex, sexuality and gender matter and gender inequality is linked to the acceptance of violence and to sexual violence against children.
– Boys are overlooked with more than half (21) of the 40 countries lacking legal protections for boys within their child rape laws, and only 17 countries collecting prevalence data about boys. Just five collect prevalence data for boys related to CSE.
– Given the scale of the problem, preventative strategies are critical. Only 4 (four) of the 40 countries have government-supported programs that make prevention services available to at-risk or prospective child sex offenders.
Key findings of the Index specific to the United States:
Where has progress been made?
– There are comprehensive laws prohibiting sexual offenses against children, which are enforced at both the federal and state level.
– Numerous civil society organizations provide a variety of support services for child victims of sexual offenses.
– The ”National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction” was adopted in 2016 and involves a large number of federal agencies.
– The country’s private technology, news media, and travel and tourism industries have committed to tackling sexual offences against children.
What more needs to be done?
– A comprehensive survey on the prevalence of child sexual exploitation does not exist.
– There is no federal system of support for victims of child sexual violence.
– Most laws on such offenses are state laws, leading to state-by-state variations.
”For nearly 20 years, the World Childhood Foundation has supported >100 projects on an annual basis in the US and globally. We hope that the Out of the Shadows Index can be a transformative and powerful tool that will support global strategy and mobilization of resources to scale up effective programs and spur collective action to address this global epidemic affecting at least 10% of children globally,” said Dr. Joanna Rubinstein, President and CEO of World Childhood Foundation USA and Commissioner of The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) UNESCO Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development. “Drawing upon the momentum of the #MeToo movement, I hope we can similarly harness the power of a shared global voice for ending child sexual abuse and exploitation in our society. The stakes for not addressing this universal problem that can lead to learning disabilities, mental health problems and increased risk of substance abuse and the perpetuation of violence are too high from a human and economic perspective.”
Nadia Murad, the winner of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize said, “It is important to draw international attention to the ongoing plight of children who are the most vulnerable victims of sexual violence and human trafficking. All of humanity must work together to eliminate this epidemic and to build a better future for women, children and persecuted minorities.”
Even the media and entertainment industry can play a role. For example, CNN’s Freedom Project on Human Trafficking and the film, ”The Tale,” shed light on the problem of child abuse and exploitation. “Having had the opportunity to portray Jennifer Fox, a survivor of child sexual abuse, and to share her incredibly emotional true story with the world was a great privilege,” said actress Laura Dern, star of the HBO original film, The Tale. ”The ”Out of the Shadows” Index is a major milestone in addressing this global problem by holding countries accountable, shining a light on the pervasiveness of childhood sexual violence and the pressing need to protect the world’s children.”
Barriers and pathways to progress in fighting sexual violence against children are discussed in detail in the Index report and data model, which are available online at outoftheshadows.eiu.com. Additional methodology details of the Out of the Shadows study are also available at outoftheshadows.eiu.com.