Below is a short summary of some of the key issues from the report by the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, on Belgium and the Netherlands. Read the full text. Please note that this is not an official UN summary.
At the invitation of the respective Governments, the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography visited Belgium and the Netherlands, from 30 November to 4 December 1998, to study the issue of commercial sexual exploitation of children. The Special Rapporteur chose to visit Belgium and the Netherlands following the high-profile arrest in Belgium in 1996 of a man allegedly responsible for the kidnap, rape and murder of several children. Two years later, in 1998, attention was again focused on the region when a predominantly European paedophile network called 'W0nderland' operating over the Internet was uncovered by British-led police 'Operation Cathedral'. These events did much to raise international public awareness that the abuse of children through organized paedophilia can no longer be assumed to be a problem primarily faced by the countries of south-east Asia, or to have a direct correlation with situations of extreme poverty.
The Special Rapporteur concluded that the situation of commercial sexual exploitation of children in the Netherlands follows a similar pattern to that observed in other developed countries, but is very different to the pattern observed in the developing world. Children do not enter prostitution as a result of dire poverty and as a last resort for survival, but as an escape from violence, abuse and neglect in their homes. Of particular concern is the extent to which the system of protection for refugees is being abused, with the result that children are being trafficked into the Netherlands for prostitution and other purposes. The monitoring of children involved in prostitution and/or pornography is extremely difficult given that these activities are rarely conducted in brothels, bars or from the streets, but behind closed doors. Children are unlikely to seek help or make complaints to the authorities because they usually consider that they are in the trade of their own volition and they are often plagued by guilt in this respect. The Special Rapporteur is very disturbed by the indications that one or several dangerous networks of paedophiles are operating in northern Europe, kidnapping, raping and sometimes murdering children. Even children from the most secure and protective families could potentially be at risk. The Special Rapporteur would strongly urge greater vigilance by all sectors of society in this regard.
The Special Rapporteur also made the following eleven recommendations to the Government towards curtailing the problem of curtailing trafficking in persons: (a) Immediate response mechanisms should be established for children who are entering the Netherlands either as refugees or as victims of traffickers; (b) The establishment of a reception centre to attend to the immediate needs and safety of unaccompanied minors; (c) There is urgent need to establish bilateral or multilateral collaborative arrangements with neighbouring countries on the issue of trafficking of children by organized networks; (d) The rules and policies on asylum should be reviewed and amended to facilitate rapid determination of the status of unaccompanied children; (e) There is a need for awareness-raising programmes and initiatives on the rights of children under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, particularly their right to be protected from sexual exploitation of any kind; (f) Training programmes for all professionals working in the criminal justice system promote more aggressive action against child abusers and a more compassionate approach to child victims; (g) The involvement of children, especially boys, in the production of pornography is of serious concern. Studies must be conducted so that gender desegregated initiatives can be established. Intensive campaigns through education, both formal and informal, should be conducted aimed at eliminating discrimination, particularly against children; (i) The Government should support all initiatives aimed at deterring their nationals from exploiting children, whether in the country or abroad; (j) To combat the growing phenomenon of gambling addiction among children and in view of the fact that it is established as one of the causes of the involvement of children, especially boys, in prostitution, a strict ban on children under 18 years of age in casinos or places where gambling machines are available should be enforced; (k) Non-commercial sexual abuse, especially when perpetrated in the context of the family, such as incest and other types of domestic violence, abuse and neglect should be examined in relation to the age and sex of the victim; (l) The curtailment of drug, alcohol and other types of substance abuse by children should be a high priority for the Government; (m) The legislative changes made by the Government must be accompanied by practical and administrative measures to ensure the protection of children.