Joint response to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCR) on ICTs and child sexual exploitation

D&S fellow Mark Latonero and D&S researcher Monica Bulger participated in a joint statement prepared by the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention (CJCP) Prof. Sonia Livingstone, Coordinator of EU Kids Online, Data & Society Research Institute, Child Rights International Network (CRIN) and the International Child Redress Project (ICRP). It seeks to contribute a children’s rights perspective to existing discussions and policies concerning child sexual exploitation in relation to information and communication technologies (ICTs).

While existing efforts to protect children online are well­-intended, in practice, they might inadvertently infringe upon children’s other rights. Responses to­ date ­ both at a policy level and within the household are largely based on perceptions of the dangers of the Internet, rather than the evidence. It is undoubtedly important to recognize the need for protection; but in devising responses to the risk of child sexual exploitation we must consider a) the range of other rights potentially undermined by exclusively protectionist policies, b) the evidence for specific risks of harm to particular groups, and then promote c) evidence­-based interventions. Policies designed to address sexual exploitation in relation to ICTs
should respect the full set of rights enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Particular care is needed to ensure that any one right (e.g. protection from sexual exploitation) is not seen to automatically justify restrictions on other rights (e.g. right to privacy, to access information, and to freedom of expression). In the face of rights violations as a result of inappropriate protection policies, children should have access to justice.