A report has been released by the UK Government on the proposed implementation of an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This protocol is an additional legal mechanism that relates to the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. It will further address articles from the UNCRC dealing with specific abuses of children and expands the obligations beyond those under the original treaty.
The UN Committee has rightly expressed its ‘deepest concern’ with the scale and nature of child trafficking in the UK and the low level of prosecutions and convictions. We know that at least 10 children are trafficked every week in the UK – facing a life of violence, exploitation and abuse.
UNICEF UK shares concerns that there is no comprehensive legislation to address all of the offences covered under the Optional Protocol, including the sale of children. The UN Committee observed that existing UK legislation is not fully in accordance with the Optional Protocol and child trafficking is not defined consistently.
We are aiming for a proper definition of child trafficking and a separate child exploitation offence to be included in the Modern Slavery Bill.
UNICEF UK also calls for a number of protection measures to be adopted in the Bill, most notably legal guardianship for trafficked children. We are also calling for non-prosecution of victims of child trafficking. UNICEF UK calls on the UK Government to take forward the recommendations by the UN Committee as a matter of urgency and priority.