France / Sale and sexual exploitation of children: towards a comprehensive and coordinated approach that guarantees the best interest of the child

PARIS (2 December 2011) - The Special Rapporteur Ms Najat Maalla M’jid encouraged the government to adopt a comprehensive approach to guarantee the protection of all children victims or vulnerable to various forms of exploitation without any discrimination. She welcomed the efforts undertaken by the French Government in the area of preventing and combating the sale and sexual exploitation of children.

“Although the extent of the sale and sexual exploitation of children remains unclear, the phenomenon of cyber pornography is alarmingly increasing,” she said. This is the second visit to the country since 2002 by an independent expert mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

The Special Rapporteur also noted the increasing vulnerability of children from dysfunctional families and/or families living in precarious situations. She particularly highlighted the highvulnerability of unaccompanied foreign minors to all forms of exploitation. Moreover, the use of non-secure new technologies by children subjects them to risks of sexual solicitations and exposure to pornographic material.

During her mission in France from 21 November to 2 December, the Special Rapporteur met with various State and local authorities, civil society and private sector representatives. She also visited children care centres and shelters in Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux and Marseille.

The objective of her mission was to report on the actual situation of sale, prostitution and pornography of children in France; as well as to highlight their responses in terms of prevention and protection.

France has developed a strong legislation that has allowed the establishment of an elaborate child protection system, however, the ongoing production of new laws and the repressive trend could jeopardize these accomplishments. Numerous programs on assistance, support and care of children in difficult situations are provided primarily by the local authorities (“Conseils Généraux”). A wide choice of continuous training programmes is also available to those involved in child protection.

However, despite all efforts by the authorities and the strong mobilization of the civil society, the protection and care of children remains fragmented, unequal depending on the capacities of the local authorities and suffers from lack of inter-sectorial coordination. The social services are overwhelmed, and their capacities to accommodate and accompany children are exceeded.

The special rapporteur highlighted the need for a national strategic framework and an effective inter-sectorial coordination. As the protection of children is a cross cutting and comprehensive issue, continued, systematic and interdisciplinary trainings would contribute to the improvement of the quality of the provision of care for children. Moreover, the current economic situation should not affect the resources allocated to child protection. The Special Rapporteur also encouraged France to continue intensifying all initiatives relating to international cooperation to combat crimes that transcend borders.

Ms. Najat Maalla M’jid (Morocco) was appointed Special Rapporteur on the sale of children in May 2008. She is independent from any government or organization. Ms. Maalla M’jid is paediatrician and member of the Commission on the Rights of the Child of the Moroccan National Consultative Council on Human Rights, and the founder of the non-governmental organization BAYTI, the first programme addressing the situation of children living in the street in Morocco.

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