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United Nations: World Congress Against Child Abuse Opens

Copenhagen, 27 August 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Countries should consider various forms of sexual exploitation of children major criminal offenses, the First World Congress against Child Abuse Stockholm is expected to recommend during a conference which opens today and lasts until August 31.

More than one million children are sexually abused by adults each year, according to the United Nations. But because of the sensitivity of the issue, the secrecy in which organized pedophile rings operate and the large number of unreported cases, this number is probably much higher.

After the fall of communism, some countries in Eastern Europe and parts of the former Soviet Union have become havens for child prostitution.

While most former communist states are signatories to various international conventions protecting the rights of children, poverty and lack of enforcement have spawned in some areas a growing trade in children.

To combat the problem, many governments have adopted laws to allow for the prosecution of child offenders outside the country where the crime was committed. The congress is expected to emphasize the need to make this internationally applicable.

The Stockholm congress is also certain to discuss ways of limiting the distribution of child pornography on the Internet's World Wide Web.

Organized by the Swedish government and UNESCO, the congress aims at identifying ways to combat sexual exploitation of children world-wide. More than 1,200 delegates from 130 countries, half of them government representatives, will participate.

The congress is expected to prepare a comprehensive declaration directing governments to give priority to combating child abuse. The gathering is also likely to call on all countries to commit themselves to treating various forms of sexual exploitation of children, including but not limited to pedophilia, pornography and forced prostitution, as major criminal offenses.