DECLARATION AND AGENDA FOR ACTION

OF

SEXUALLY EXPLOITED CHILDREN AND YOUTH

 

Ratified by the Youth Delegated of:

Out from the Shadows

International Summit of Sexually Exploited Youth

 

 

 

March 12, 1998

Victoria, B.C. Canada

 

PREAMBLE

In Victoria, Canada, on March 12, 1998, 55 delegates with experience as sexually exploited children and youth from across the Americas, presented a Declaration and Agenda for Action to representatives from participating governments, international non-governmental organizations and non-experiential delegates. Out from the Shadows – First International Summit of Sexually Exploited Youth, a five day event which provided a venue for youth to speak.

Leading up to the summit, a series of consultations with young people in and from the sex trade took place in 16 cities across the Americas. Two youth from each consultation were invited and given the support necessary to attend Out from the Shadows – International Summit of Sexually Exploited Youth. During the first three days, opportunities for the youth delegates to relate their experiences and develop a vision for change came in the form of Theater, Music, Story Telling, Visual Arts and the creation of this Declaration and Agenda for Action.

The process which developed the Declaration and Agenda for Action began in a predetermined traditional workshop format which included a draft Declaration and Agenda for Action. Youth present at the workshop tried to frame their experiences and stories into the context of the development of a final document, while non-experiential participants also provided input. It became immediately apparent that what the youth present really needed was a safe place to tell their stories and related their experiences. Through the tears, pain experiences, and hopes expressed, themes, beliefs, and recommendations began to emerge.

One of the most important lessons in the development of this Declaration and Agenda for Action is that process is as important as product and must guide us in all efforts towards the eradication of the commercial sexual exploitation of children and youth.

The Declaration and Agenda for Action must be adopted and implemented in its entirety because without all the pieces in place, children and youth the world over will continue to suffer sexual exploitation and its many inter-related issues and impacts.

So many times our voices have not been heard. Here, at this Summit, we are united. Our voice is strong. This Declaration presents our united voice, the voices of sexually exploited children and youth. We represent a cross-section of society and we have many stories. Here you will hear our voice.

 

 

DECLARATION

We, the sexually exploited child and youth delegates gathered in Victoria, Canada, for Out From the Shadows – International Summit of Sexually Exploited Youth, declare the following:

We declare that the term child or youth prostitute can no longer be used. These children and youth are sexually exploited and any language or reference to them must reflect this belief.

We declare that the commercial sexual exploitation of children and youth is a form of child abuse and slavery.

We declare that all children and youth have the right to be protected from all forms of abuse, exploitation and the threat of abuse, harm or exploitation.

We declare that the commercial exploitation of children and youth must no longer be financially profitable.

We declare that all children and youth have the right to know their rights.

We declare that the issue of child and youth sexual exploitation must be a global priority and nations must not only hold their neighbors accountable but also themselves.

We declare that governments are obligated to create laws which reflect the principle of zero tolerance of all forms of abuse and exploitation of children and youth.

AGENDA FOR ACTION

Our Agenda contains actions that are based on our beliefs. Our beliefs have come from what we have lived. To understand why these actions will work, you must understand our beliefs and the life experiences that have led to these beliefs.

We believe that education is vital in our struggle against the sexual exploitation of children and youth.

We believe that the voices and experiences of sexually exploited children and youth must be heard and be central to the development and implementation of action. We must be empowered to help ourselves.

We believe that we have a right to resources that are directed towards sexually exploited children and youth and our very diverse needs.

We believe that as children and youth, we are all vulnerable to sexual exploitation whether male, female, or transgendered.

We believe that our laws must protect us as sexually exploited children and youth and no longer punish us as criminals.

We believe that we are all responsible for our children and youth, yet the issue is not ours alone. Governments, communities and society as a whole must be held accountable for the sexual exploitation of children and youth.

EDUCATION

Education is vital in the struggle against the sexual exploitation of children and youth.

"I can’t read or write because you chose not to teach me."

"I didn’t even know what a uterus was."

"People look at me and think I’m ‘just’ a prostitute. I’m also a mom, a sister, a daughter."

 

Recommendations

Prevention:

Implement programs to educate all children and youth to recognize potential sexual exploitation and appropriate ways to protect and empower themselves. Educate the community as to who potential sexually exploited children and youth are and who the exploiters are and strategies for intervention.

Harm Reduction:

Sexually exploited children and youth must be aware of their rights and fully educated in terms of health and safety issues.

Emergency situations:

Professionals such as doctors, counselors and police, who work with crisis situations, must be trained to recognize signs of sexual exploitation and know how to sensitively intervene.

Healing and Connecting:

Sexually exploited children and youth need specialized academic education, as well as training in basic life skills.

Public Attitudes:

The media has a responsibility to educate the public and to eliminate the stereotypes surrounding sexually exploited children and youth.

EXPERIENTIAL INVOLVEMENT

The voices and experiences of sexually exploited children and youth must be heard and be central to the development and implementation of action. We must be empowered to help ourselves.

"It is just safe talking here with others from the trade."

"Just as an alcoholic can help another alcoholic, youth can really help other youth with similar struggles."

 

Recommendations

Prevention:

The experiences of children and youth who have suffered sexual exploitation must be utilized in the formation of preventative programs.

Harm Reduction:

Experiential youth must have the opportunity to develop and implement front-line programs for children and youth involved in the sex industry.

Crisis Situations:

The expertise of the peers of sexually exploited children and youth must be acknowledged and utilized in crisis situations. These youth need to be actively involved in staffing hotlines, outreach programs, crisis counseling, peer mentoring and peer counseling.

Healing and Connecting:

Opportunities must be provided for sexually exploited children and youth to connect with each other and themselves. Support groups facilitated by those who have experienced the sex trade provide a safe environment for healing and connecting.

Advocacy and Public Attitudes:

Experiential children and youth can put faces to the issues. They can advocate for sexually exploited children and youth from a unique perspective. Forums must be developed for their stories to be heard and to effect both change and public attitudes. Youth, governments, corporations and communities must undertake hosting and funding of other international forums and summits to address this issue.

RESOURCES AND SUPPORT

We have a right to resources that are directed towards sexually exploited children and youth and our very diverse needs.

"Suicide lines don’t know how to deal with the issues we deal with. They can’t cope with our reality."

"The Prostitutes in my country are very young and have no place to sleep. They sleep on the streets and this is when the men take advantage of them and rape them."

 

Recommendations

Prevention:

Mentoring programs must be established for potentially vulnerable children and youth. Information about resources where sexually exploited children and youth can find assistance and support needs to be accessible.

Harm Reduction:

Safe and adequate housing must be available for sexually exploited children and youth, where there is proper support in terms of health and emotional well-being and practical support including life skills, educational and vocational training.

Crisis Situation:

All governments must take responsibility in establishing 24 hour help lines working in conjunction with crisis intervention services and outreach teams.

Healing and Connecting:

The healing process involves finding the source of the problem. This takes time and long term consistent support from caring individuals including counselors and experiential peer supports. Safe environments need to be created where this can take place.

Advocacy and Public Attitudes:

We want the right and the means to report people who abuse us. Governments and officials must commit to the issue of sexually exploited children and youth and provide funding and support for front-line workers and advocates.

GENDER ISSUES

As children and youth, we are all vulnerable to sexual exploitation whether male, female, or transgendered.

"I am turned away by prostitute agencies, I am turned away by the gay community, I am turned away by my friends and family because I am not only selling my body, but I am a guy and selling my body to guys. It’s not fair."

"It is just as scary to think of young boys being equally vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation."

 

Recommendations

Prevention:

Sexually exploited children and youth must have the opportunity to access resources regarding sexuality and sexual abuse. Educational programs must be developed to be implemented in schools, churches, social services, and other community centers.

Harm Reduction:

Community and government action must be taken to support safer sex education as well as more effective policing of areas where male and transgender sexual exploitation takes place.

Crisis Situation:

Sensitivity training for police, service providers, crisis phone line operators and other professionals regarding the sexually exploited children and youth, whether male, female or transgendered, must be developed and implemented.

Healing and Connecting:

There is a need for governments and communities to support the development of peer-led support groups that focus on sexuality issues, exploitation issues and gender issues for young men. There is also a need to support us in identifying gay and transgendered adult role models or mentors in order to help in the development of healthy visions and views of the gay and transgendered community.

Advocacy and Public Attitudes:

There is a need to recognize that not all males or youth who are exploited are gay or bisexual and to ensue that there is a voice for straight children and youth who are sexually exploited.

LEGISLATIVE ACTION

Our laws must protect us as sexually exploited children and youth and no longer punish us as criminals.

"It shouldn’t be O.K. beat us up just because we are prostitutes."

"For the children, we have to ask for harsher punishment of the pimps, bad dates and others who hurt us."

 

Recommendations

Prevention:

Children or youth who are at high risk for sexual exploitation must be identified by those with authority and ability to intervene. Networking systems between service care providers must be utilized in order to prevent children "slipping between the cracks".

Harm Reduction:

Legislation must be passed for the prosecution of all those who buy, sell, facilitate or profit from the sexually exploited children and youth, whether directly or indirectly.

Crisis Situations:

Prosecution of exploiters must not be dependent only on the testimony of the abused child or youth. The legislative process must protect the child and youth from further exploitation and trauma.

Healing and Connecting:

Decriminalization of children and youth who have been exploited sexually is crucial to both the recovery process and their ability to connect, or reconnect, to society.

Advocacy and Public Attitudes:

ACCOUNTABILITY

You will notice the difference in structure for Accountability. A delegate from South American wrote the following piece based on our belief that:

We are all responsible for our children and youth, yet the issue is not ours alone. Governments, communities and society as a whole must be held accountable for the sexually exploited children and youth.

The different model represents how diverse the issue of the sexual exploitation of children and youth is. No one answer will solve this global problem as it needs to be worked on by not only the global community, but national and local communities as well. It represents how we all have a part to play in working towards the solutions.

Below you will find a very descriptive and unique approach to the recommendations. Please listen to the youth of the world, our voices are our path to prevention, reducing harm, dealing with crisis situations, healing, and advocating for ourselves.

"Child and youth prostitution is a reflection of the disease in society’s soul."

"Many of us disappear without a trace. No one knows what happens to us when we die."

"A child is murdered and no one cares because she is a prostitute. Society’s hands are just as bloody as the guy who did it."

 

Recommendations

The Responsibilities of Our Governments:

"Our governments must find ways to stop the countries of the world from banning the import of artisan products. By doing so this would lessen the poverty and the sexual exploitation of children and youth. Our governments must insist that the police be less violent towards sex workers and sexually exploited children. They must help us and believe in us.

There should be politicians who advocate on our behalf. People who understand that we are as worthy as everyone else.

Also that there be social support for our families.

The wealthy must not judge us just because they have a lot. They must not let happen what is happening to us.

And I wish that for one minute – for just one minute – that they would put themselves in our place so they could understand and realize that we are people.

That they think of helping and not judging.

Society is the reason that children and youth are in the streets. It is why we are sex workers or children of the streets. It discriminates against us. Instead of helping, it pushes us further into sexual exploitation."

Specific to the levels of government, recommendations are:

Local community:

National:

Global Communities: