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«Action for the Rights of Children (ARC) Critical Issues Abuse and Exploitation CONTENTS BRIEFING NOTES FOR FACILITATORS Page Introduction Topic 1: ...»

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Action for the Rights of Children (ARC)

Critical Issues

Abuse and Exploitation




Topic 1: Defining Abuse and Exploitation

Topic 2: Refugee and Displaced Children are at Increased Risk

Topic 3: The Nature of Child Labour

Topic 4: Principal Forms of Sexual Exploitation – Perpetrators and Impact......... 20 Topic 5: The Legal Basis for Protection

Topic 6: Prevention Is the Most Effective Way of Protecting Children.................. 32 Topic 7: Protecting Child / Adolescent Workers from Labour Exploitation............ 37 Topic 8: Protecting Children / Adolescents Who Have Been Sexually Exploited.. 41 Topic 9: Child Abuse Within the Family

Sample Programme





RESOURCES Further Readings, Videos and Websites


Abuse and Exploitation - Revision Version 04/01 Action for the Rights of Children (ARC) Abuse and Exploitation Introduction Facilitators who have not recently trained or worked in the area covered by this Resource Pack, should read carefully through the various Topics, Overheads, Exercises, Handouts and Readings before starting to plan their training activity.

Please note when using these materials, that they are to be used in conjunction with stated policy (they do not replace it) and aim to stimulate learning and discussion.


The following are the key concepts that are addressed in this Resource Pack.

1. Abuse and Exploitation are relative concepts that need to be understood in relation to personal values, cultural and community standards as well as international standards.

2. Refugee and displaced children may be at an increased risk of abuse and exploitation owing to their age and the particular circumstances they and their families find themselves in. Poverty is frequently the root cause of exploitative child work and sexual exploitation.

3. In different circumstances, children undertake a wide range of different kinds of work, some of which will be both beneficial and socially acceptable, and some of which may be exploitative. There is a complex relationship between child work and education.

4. Sexual abuse and exploitation usually have a devastating effect on the physical and mental health of children, and also on their families and communities.

5. There are various legal instruments that can be used to protect children from different forms of abuse and exploitation.

6. A range of preventive strategies can be developed to protect children from different forms of exploitation. A child-centred situation analysis will be an essential pre-condition for developing an effective preventive strategy.

7. Various support systems can be developed to protect and assist working children.

8. Skilled and sensitive intervention is required when cases of sexual abuse or exploitation are reported or suspected. Inappropriate or insensitive intervention can cause further distress to the child. Different situations call for different strategies of intervention, and there may be an important role for UNHCR staff, local statutory authorities and the refugee community. There are important principles to be followed in response to allegations of sexual abuse or exploitation.


Abuse and Exploitation - Revision Version 04/01 Page 2 Action for the Rights of Children (ARC)

9. Community mobilisation strategies may be especially appropriate in developing both preventive approaches and in responding to allegations of child abuse and exploitation.

10. Child abuse within the family presents especially serious protection issues that require rapid, skilled and sensitive intervention. It is an urgent necessity to formulate a protection plan for the child and for other child members of the household.

These key concepts appear in Overhead 1.0.


The vulnerability of children to various forms of abuse and exploitation in situations of conflict and refugee contexts has increasingly been recognised as a major and serious protection issue. Sexual exploitation and gender-based violence were issues that received particular prominence in the 1996 United Nations Study on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children (the Machel Study). The issues of sexual violence, abuse and exploitation were also highlighted in UNHCR’s “Evaluation of UNHCR’s Efforts on Behalf of Children and Adolescents” (1997).

While there has been a growing recognition within UNHCR of the issues of the sexual abuse and exploitation of women and children (for example, during flight, in camp situations and by members of armed forces or groups), there has been very little focus on issues of child abuse and exploitation within the broader context, including within the family.

There is considerable overlap between the terms “abuse” and “exploitation”.

Abuse is defined as “the process of making bad or improper use, or violating or injuring, or to take bad advantage of, or maltreat, the person,” while exploitation literally means “using for one’s own profit or for selfish purposes" 1.

Child abuse includes the physical, emotional, or sexual mistreatment of a child, or the neglect of a child, in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s physical and emotional health, survival and development.

Neglect of a child may be based on repeated conduct or on a single incident or omission that results in, or should reasonably be expected to result in, serious physical or mental injury or a substantial risk of death to the child. Neglect can include, but is not limited to, the failure to provide sufficient food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision and medicine. It can also include the failure to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse, exploitation or neglect by another person.

Exploitation of a child refers to the use of the child in work or other activities for the benefit of others and to the detriment of the child’s physical or mental health, development, and education. Exploitation includes, but is not limited to, child labour and child prostitution. Both terms, however, indicate that advantage is being taken of the child’s lack of power and status.

The term “child labour” also presents some ambiguities because of its very negative connotations. Does domestic work within the family constitute child labour? Not all children’s work should be considered as exploitative, and in some situations may be regarded as beneficial to the child and a necessary part of the ________________________________________

Abuse and Exploitation - Revision Version 04/01 Page 3 Action for the Rights of Children (ARC) family economy. These issues are discussed in Topic 3.

Two types of exploitation receive particular prominence in this Resource Pack:

sexual exploitation and exploitative child labour. Care needs to be taken in defining situations as exploitative: exploitation as a relative rather than absolute term is discussed in Topic 1.

There is growing awareness that the perpetrators of child abuse and exploitation are more often than not known to the child, including not only direct family members but more commonly extended family members, family friends and even other children. While abuse within the family has sometimes been assumed to be a mainly western phenomenon, there is a growing awareness of it in other cultures. Moreover, the circumstances of conflict and forced migration create a whole range of environmental stresses that appear to place children in a more vulnerable situation. Cases of abuse within the family are particularly difficult to deal with as children and adults may be reluctant to reveal incidents of abuse, especially in cultures where the raising of children is seen as a private concern.

But abuse within the family is particularly serious simply because the very people charged with the main responsibility for protecting the child are failing to do so.

Throughout this Resource Pack, references to refugee and displaced children should be taken to include internally displaced children, returnees and children in resettlement situations.

Dealing with child abuse and exploitation (especially sexual exploitation) require a high level of skill and sensitivity. This resource pack aims to provide an introduction to these difficult subjects but does not offer specialist and detailed training.


The human rights of children are fully articulated in one treaty: the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC, 1989), offering the highest standard of protection and assistance for children under any international instrument. The approach of the Convention is holistic, which means that the rights are indivisible and interrelated, and that all articles are equally important. The CRC is the most universally accepted human rights instrument – it has been ratified by every country in the world except two (the United States and Somalia). It provides the most comprehensive framework for the responsibilities of States parties to all children within their borders: by ratifying the Convention, national governments have committed themselves to protecting and ensuring the rights of all children without discrimination, including the rights of refugee and displaced children and adolescents. The CRC defines a “child” as everyone under 18 years of age “unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier”. The scheme of the CRC suggests that this exception should be interpreted as an empowering one, in other words that children under 18 years can claim the benefits of adulthood if granted by national law while still able to claim the protection of the CRC. This is particularly important to bear in mind where issues or questions related to the “age of consent” may arise.

Under the CRC, the child is entitled to protection from economic exploitation and from work that is likely to be hazardous or interfere with the child’s education or be harmful to the child’s health or development. The child should be protected from ________________________________________

Abuse and Exploitation - Revision Version 04/01 Page 4 Action for the Rights of Children (ARC) violence, including abuse and neglect, whether occurring in the family (domestic violence), in the community or in institutions. States parties undertake to protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.

States parties also have the obligation to protect the child from sale, trafficking and abduction. To extend the measures that they should undertake for that purpose, the General Assembly adopted in 2000 an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.

The child victim of violence, neglect, exploitation or abuse has the right to recovery measures under CRC article 39.


The material in this Resource Pack is wide-ranging and designed so that those working with the Resource Pack can select sections appropriate to their needs.

Topic 1 introduces the subject of abuse and exploitation of children. It considers how definitions can vary according to the context.

Topic 2 examines how refugee children may be at greater risk of abuse and exploitation and some of the issues that need to be considered.

Topic 3 looks at the different types of children's work and their impact on children.

Topic 4 examines the different types of sexual exploitation and their impact.

Topic 5 is a review of international legal instruments and their application when dealing with issues of abuse and exploitation.

Topic 6 looks at prevention as the most useful approach to dealing with abuse and exploitation.

Topic 7 looks at the type and range of interventions that can be used to deal with cases of child labour exploitation.

Topic 8 examines the issue of interventions in respect of sexual exploitation.

Topic 9 looks at the question of child abuse and exploitation within the family; this topic looks at both prevention and intervention.

Participatory exercises, case studies, overheads and handouts are provided.

Facilitators are strongly recommended to develop regionally or country-specific materials, such as case studies, in order to make the training more relevant.


Facilitators are encouraged to look at this Resource Pack in the light of other ARC materials. The ARC Resource Pack on Child and Adolescent Development includes a section (Topic 4) which looks at the impact of abuse and exploitation on children. Separated Children and children with Disability are frequently at increased risk of various kinds of abuse and exploitation, while Child Soldiers may experience particular forms of abuse and exploitation - reference may be made to the relevant ARC Resource Packs.

These definitions are derived from the Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition 1989.


Abuse and Exploitation - Revision Version 04/01 Page 5 Action for the Rights of Children (ARC)

–  –  –


• The term “child abuse” includes physical, emotional and sexual abuse, and neglect.

• In determining whether refugee children’s work is exploitative within the framework of the appropriate laws and guidelines, it is necessary to consider the social, political, economic, and cultural context of the given host and refugee communities, including the influence of a camp, urban, or rural setting. Children’s views should be regarded as a fundamental part of this determination.

• The term “exploitation” can cover a multitude of situations or practices.

It will be important that participants are aware of this and agree on a working definition that is appropriate to the specific context.

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