Innocenti Working Papers

The UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre (IRC) was created to strengthen UNICEF's research capability and to support its advocacy for children worldwide. The Working Papers (formerly Innocenti Occasional Papers), are the foundation of the Centre's research output, underpinning many of the Centre's other publications. These high quality research papers are aimed at an academic and well-informed audience, contributing to ongoing discussion on a wide range of child-related issues.


Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Boys in South Asia

A Review of Research Findings, Legislation, Policy and Programme Responses

This paper provides an overview of research findings, legislation, policy and programme responses to prevent and respond to the sexual abuse and exploitation of boys in South Asia. The background to the paper is based on the findings from previously conducted UNICEF IRC research on child trafficking in the region, in which it was indicated that boys enjoy less legal protection than girls from sexual abuse and exploitation and less access to service for victims. While it is seen that the majority of legislation and policies that address ‘children’ adequately address ‘boys’, this paper notes areas in which the rights and needs of boys require greater focus. Among the concerns is the absence of legal commentary on legislation regarding boys’ issues and an absence of advocacy efforts to take action and amend laws to provide equal protection to boys. In some cases legislation covers only girls and women. And, although research shows that boys face nearly the same degree of sexual abuse and exploitation as girls, programming throughout the region is overwhelmingly directed at girls and women. Evidence-based information is lacking on the sexual abuse of both boys and girls and on the sexual exploitation of boys. The majority of studies to date have emphasized trafficking for sexual exploitation and have been focused on women and girls. Research on trafficking has concentrated on recruitment, transportation and sale of victims; little research has been conducted on the subsequent situations of exploitation into which children are trafficked. Some countries in South Asia are beginning to fill the knowledge gap regarding both child sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of boys. The information that is presented was mainly gathered in 2008, but it remains limited by the sources available, some of which date back several years previously. The findings are however considered to be relatively robust and consistent. The report presents concrete recommendations for strengthening legislation, policy and programmes to address this issue from a child rights based approach. It highlights that listening to boys and girls and learning from their experiences and recommendations are key to designing and implementing effective preventive and protective mechanisms.


Keywords: child sexual abuse, child trafficking, boys in South Asia, sexual exploitation
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