Kathmandu, August 27:

Child victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking are often blamed and punished across South Asia, where weak national legislation can lead to further victimisation of kids, according to a UNICEF report launched today.

The report ‘South Asia in Action: Preventing and Responding to Child

Trafficking’ reveals that laws have to be strengthened to protect trafficked children from further exploitation, as well as from being trafficked.

South Asian children continue to be trafficked for multiple forms of sexual exploitation — including prostitution, sex tourism, child pornography, paedophilia, and labour exploitation in agriculture, factories, domestic servitude and begging, forced marriage, adoption, military recruitment and debt release, said Daniel Toole, regional director of UNICEF Regional Office South Asia (ROSA) addressing the press meet.

“There is often a tendency to overlook trafficking of boys for sexual exploitation,” he added.

The report recognises that governments in South Asia have developed national plans of action and some have adopted laws that criminalise trafficking in human beings. However, it says that the legal framework should be strengthened further to protect children from trafficking.

“So far, only India and Sri Lanka have signed Palermo Protocol, the first legal instrument to provide international definition of trafficking in human beings.”

The judicial process itself also needs to be reformed to make it more child-friendly, the report says. Legal remedies, such as witness protection schemes and in-camera proceedings, should be implemented for psychological well-being of children.

South Asian children are not well-informed about legal process and that can lead to children unexpectedly being criminalised, the report states.

There are push and pull factors that draw children into being trafficked and poverty is generally recognised as the most visible and widespread cause.