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“Place child protection at the core of tourism strategy” – UN rights expert urges Dominican Republic

GENEVA (18 May 2017) – “Those who come to the Dominican Republic to sexually exploit children must know that their crimes will be punished,” said the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, at the end of her first official visit to the country.

“Child protection must be at the core of the Government’s tourism strategy,” the expert stressed, while urging the Dominican Republic Government to “send a strong signal that the target of 10 millions of tourists by 2022 is not reached at the expense of exposing further children to the scourge of sexual exploitation.”

“The blame is often put on the families and the exploited children themselves, while perpetrators – often foreign male from Western countries whose crimes are facilitated by all sorts of intermediaries – walk around with a complete sense of impunity,” Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio said.

The Special Rapporteur called on the Ministry of Tourism to incorporate prevention of this scourge in its plans, and to lead efforts already deployed by the private travel and tourism sector, together with local actors of affected communities, to implement the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism.

The expert commended measures adopted by the specialised units of the Attorney General’s Office to combat trafficking and high technology crimes, which have led to a series of convictions, including of foreign nationals. She also called for better coordination between the police and the body in charge of tourist security (CESTUR) to improve detection and referral of cases for criminal investigation. “International police and judicial cooperation are also crucial to combat impunity,” she added.

Regarding the issue of child marriage, which is an extended practice that affects mostly girls, she urged the Dominican Congress to introduce in the reform of the Civil Code the absolute prohibition of child marriage, without exceptions, as an effective means to send out a clear message to combat this gendered crime. 

“I call on the National Council for Children and Adolescents (CONANI) to address the lack of comprehensive care, recovery and reintegration programmes for child victims of sexual abuse and exploitation, through multidisciplinary child care centres with specialised personnel to assist child victims and their families,” the expert said.

Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio drew attention to the particular vulnerable situation of children in street situations, most of whom are of Haitian descent, and reminded Dominican authorities of their international obligation to assist them and ensure their rights to identity, education, health and life options without discrimination. She also called for a strengthened cooperation between the Dominican and Haitian authorities to address the situation of unaccompanied children living and working around the Haitian border, and reminded that “while these children remain in the country, they must receive the Dominican authorities’ assistance and protection.”

During her eight-day mission, the Special Rapporteur visited child care institutions, and met with children in vulnerable situations to fall victims of sexual exploitation such as girl vendors on beach locations. 

The Special Rapporteur also held meetings in Santo Domingo, Dajabón, Puerto Plata, Sosúa and Boca Chica with national and provincial authorities in charge of the prevention and fight against the sale and sexual exploitation of children, members of civil society and child protection NGOs, representatives of the private sector, and UN agencies, funds and programmes.

Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio will present her findings and key recommendations in a comprehensive report to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2018.

Ms. Maud de Boer-Buquicchio (Netherlands) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children by the UN Human Rights Council in May 2014 and her mandate was renewed in March 2017. She served as Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe between 2002 and 2012. Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio spearheaded the adoption of the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse. She is the President of the European Federation for Missing and Exploited Children.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the 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 fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either 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 from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page: Dominican Republic    

For more information and media requests please contact Nekane Lavín (+41 22 917 9402 / nlavin@ohchr.org) or write to srsaleofchildren@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, OHCHR Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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