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Canadians in the fight against sexual exploitation of children

April 17, 2012

The war against sexual exploitation is fought on several different fronts, ranging from catching and prosecuting the perpetrators to eliminating some of the conditions in society that make children vulnerable. Daphne Bramham, columnist with the Vancouver Sun, in her recent articles on sexual exploitation of children in Cambodia, detailed some of the challenges in bringing offenders to justice, including the inability or reluctance of police forces and judiciary to properly charge, convict and sentence them.

The other major challenge is changing the conditions, including teaching children and families to be aware of the risks and how to avoid them; reinforcing for police and the justice system the need to look after children; improving economic conditions and access to education and medical care.

There are a number of Canadian organizations that work with street children both in Canada and abroad to improve access to education and basic living conditions so that children and families have alternatives. Daphne Brahman in her blog “Think Tank”, mentioned the Tabitha Foundation and Beyond Borders (a Winnipeg-based charity).

The Ottawa-based Tabitha Foundation was started in 1994 by Janne Ritskes to provide health care, education, sanitation (water, sewage), housing, small business and co-operatives for the people in Cambodia. Michaëlle Jean, former Governor General of Canada is the patron of the organization.  A major component of Tabitha Foundation’s success is that it instructs local people on how to teach others, thereby magnifying the scope of their efforts and building a base for communities to become self-supporting.  Over a three-year period, 20 schools were built by the Tabitha Foundation, schools which now provide education for about 15,000 Cambodian children, and another 20 are on the drawing board. Only 7% of the rural population in Cambodia has access to medical care and to help address this need, the Tabitha Foundation’s newest, early-stage project is the Nokor Tep Women’s Hospital which will treat medical issues, educate and teach prevention, screen women in their own communities and conduct research and training. This website has some heart-breaking personal stories from women who illustrate the grave need for medical care.

Beyond Borders is a Canadian organization that fights for the rights of children everywhere to be free from sexual abuse and exploitation and is the Canadian representative of ECPAT International, a global network of more than 82 groups in 75 countries. Beyond Borders raises awareness, advocates for change in legislation, monitors and intervenes in court cases, trains, educates and undertakes initiatives to prevent sexual exploitation. It lobbied the Canadian government to pass legislation now called the Prober Amendment which allows perpetrators of sexual crimes, wherever committed, to be tried in Canada. Beyond Borders reminds us that trafficking for sexual purposes takes place right here in Canada as children and youth, especially aboriginal girls, are forced and/or manipulated into prostitution. Beyond Borders is also supporting a joint campaign of The Body Shop with ECPAT International to raise awareness and end child sex trafficking. A subsequent post will highlight the work of The Body Shop in this area.

OneChild, a Canadian nonprofit organization, is working with Action Pour Les Infants (APLE), a Cambodian non-governmental organization which monitors and investigates child sexual abuse and exploitation in Cambodia. The purposes of their partnership is to increase arrest and conviction of traffickers, support victims by providing access to rehabilitative services and legal assistance and improve police responses.

The Canadian Centre for Child Protection is another charitable organization born out of tragedy – the disappearance and murder of 13-year-old Candace Derksen. The organization delivers programs to educate children and their care-givers; receives and addresses reports on child pornography, online luring, child sex tourism, and child prostitution; runs Cybertip, an internet-based tipline to report online sexual abuse; maintains comprehensive data on the latest trends in child victimization and develops training programs; assists in the location of missing children; and coordinates national efforts for child protection through governmental and non-profit agencies and others.

Cleanfeed Canada” is an undertaking of the Canadian Coalition Against Internet Child Exploitation (CCAICE), a group which includes Cybertip.ca, Internet service providers, federal and provincial governments, and law enforcement including the RCMP and other governmental entities. This initiative aims to reduce Canadians’ access to child sexual abuse images. To do this, it blocks Internet customer access to non-Canadian websites hosting child pornography images of young children. According to its website, an average of 500 URLs are blocked at any given moment through Cleanfeed.

Street Kids International is a Toronto and London, UK-based organization which has worked with two million street kids in more than 60 countries. It often partners with other organizations and its methodology is to train youth workers who can then reach out to other youth. so as to more effectively deliver its services. Street Kids provides financial assistance and financial education to children and youth. It also delivers programs to build social justice and human dignity, address the challenges of poverty, including food and livelihood security, drug use and HIV/AIDS.

If you know of other organizations that provide great service in this area, I would love to know about them – so please share. Next post on this topic: Vancouver or BC-based organizations that work in this area.

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