Last week saw the launch of the global Voice for Justice campaign an ambitious initiative asking women all over the world to support child survivors of sexual exploitation by raising their voices and recording an audio testimony to highlight the prevalence of child sexual exploitation worldwide. CEASE is UK coordinator of the campaign, which is powered by Netherlands-based non-profit, Free A Girl and supported by organisations in Nepal, India, the Netherlands, the UK and the USA.
The initiative, which Hollywood star Famke Janssen and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad – an Iraqi Yazidi human rights activist who was kidnapped by Islamic State in 2014 and spent three months being tortured and raped before finally managing to escape – helped to launch, is sadly more vital than ever.
The campaign tells the story of Renuka, a survivor of child sexual exploitation in Nepal, where, sadly, child sexual exploitation and prostitution are endemic. In neighbouring India, around 1.2 million children are victims of sexual exploitation every year. And every year over 12.000 Nepali underaged girls are trafficked to India for sexual exploitation. In recent years there has been an explosive growth in Nepali girls being trafficked and sexually exploited in Nepal itself.
This humanitarian crisis extends beyond the borders of Nepal and India too: every year 2 million children are sexually exploited worldwide, the vast majority girls, and less than 1% of the perpetrators are convicted.
As Free a Girl points out:
“A large proportion of child victims are afraid of reprisals if they report the crimes and do not believe the legal system will give a fair trial. In many countries, society views these children as complicit, rather than as victims. It is under these conditions that human trafficking – worth 150 billion dollars worldwide annually – is permitted to continue with impunity.”
As a 2018 Interpol and EPCAT joint-report established, child sexual abuse is a disaster on a global scale. It showed that the internet has helped to facilitate the “severe” abuse and exploitation of children, adding that “when the victims were younger, the abuse was more likely to be severe.” The links between the internet and the explosion of sexual exploitation have recently been noted by Dame Diana Johnson as well as the #TraffickingHub campaign. In our last blog, we explored how and why the UK Government need to urgently get to grips with this human rights catastrophe as it continues to spiral out of control.
Sadly, as Free A Girl campaign says, society often views victims of sexual exploitation as complicit in their trauma, rather than as victims of it; asking what the victims could or should have done, rather than what we as a society can do to ensure nobody is subjected to the horrors of sexual exploitation.
A major part of this problem is that the authorities responsible for investigating these claims and holding perpetrators to account very rarely do so in an effective manner, which often leaves survivors feeling daunted at the task of seeking justice.
To challenge this injustice, the campaign video features the voices of women across the world imploring other women to donate their voice. Reading aloud the testimony of survivor Renuka, they together give courage to those as yet unable to report what was done to them, to seek to bring perpetrators to justice.
CEASE UK is honoured to represent the UK base of this campaign, to be a contact point for any girl or woman who has survived sexual exploitation and to help direct them to legal advice where appropriate.
So far, Free A Girl has rescued almost 5,000 girls from sexual exploitation – but there are millions more to rescue from illegal brothels. This is a global issue, and one that CEASE is proud to play a part in combatting. Only when we stand together and use our collective voice to demand an end to the sexual exploitation of women and girls will the rest of the world sit up and listen. The Free A Girl campaign does exactly that.
Please consider adding your voice to the campaign here, and if you have any questions or wish to seek support or advice on any of the issues raised in this blog, please email [email protected] and we will reply as soon as possible.
[VM1]Add a link to them
[VM2]We’ve ref’d Free a Girl a few times already so removing it here.