The UN Special Rapporteur on the sale, exploitation and sexual abuse of children stated this Friday that sexual exploitation and abuse of minors in Uruguay “are extremely common” and that “they are socially and culturally normalized”.
After an eleven-day visit to that Southern Cone country, Mama Fatima Singhateh highlighted the existence of a large number of couples between girls and adolescents and adult men, as well as the high incidence of abuse and intrafamily violence.
Singhateh acknowledged that the Uruguayan government has taken significant steps to address the sale, exploitation and sexual abuse of minors, but asserted that a more comprehensive and concrete approach is needed to attack root causes of these harmful practices.
Among the government efforts, he highlighted the search for a solid legal framework which provides for the creation of a sophisticated child protection system, as well as commendable initiatives in that regard.
However, denounced the fragmentation of care for minors and urged the authorities to adopt a comprehensive strategy, centered on children and with a rights perspective, that allows addressing the traumas suffered and takes into account gender issues to combat and eradicate the sale, exploitation and sexual abuse of minors.
“Organizations and service providers child protective services are overwhelmed and their capacity to receive and support minors is overwhelmed,” said the expert.
Warned that that inability could jeopardize progress achieved so far and would increase the risk of re-victimization of children who have been victims and survivors.
On the other hand, it indicated that the slowness of the investigation process and the delays in the processing and resolution of the cases reported to the authorities feed the idea of impunity for some perpetrators, and do not allow effective rehabilitation of victimsnor support for family members and witnesses of the sale and sexual exploitation.
The special rapporteur considered that effective coordination is needed between the various sectors to strengthen the institutions, in addition to allocate adequate resources, promote the participation of minors and set short- and long-term goals with oversight and accountability mechanisms.
In this regard, it urged the Government to implement a more coordinated and sustainable strategy in the application of the legal framework and existing protocols to guarantee the protection of all child and adolescent victims and survivors, without discrimination.
Sex education is crucial
Singhateh called on Uruguay to address the factors that increase vulnerability to these practices, such as the gender inequality, poverty, all forms of discriminationn, the persistence of certain social norms and the incitement to any type of sexual activity, especially through the internet and social networks.
He also urged combat the constant market demand of the sex industrychild labor, social exclusion, school dropout, and physical and sexual abuse within families.
Likewise, it maintained that “sex education in schools is essential for inform children about the risks inherent in sexual intercourse, bodily autonomy and early pregnancy”.
The rapporteur’s agenda in Uruguay included meetings in Montevideo, Paysandú and Chuy with representatives of the executive, legislative and judicial powers, local and municipal authorities, UN agencies, civil society, those responsible for child protection, educators, workers social workers, psychologists, members of the private sector and the academic world, local communities and with children and adolescents.
Singhateh will present a full report on his visit to Uruguay to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2024.
*The special rapporteurs, independent experts and working groups are part of what is known as Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent investigative and monitoring mechanisms that address specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. . Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organization and provide their services in an individual capacity.