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The Gambia: Director urges better deal for children

Publish Date: 15 Dec 2005

Source: Daily Observer, The Gambia
By Abdou Jatta

Social Welfare director urges better deal for children

Ms Fanta Basse Sisay, the Director of Social Welfare, has called on Government to live up to its commitment to protect the right of children against sexual abuse and exploitation, child labour and traffiicking.

Speaking recently at a national conference at the launch of National Human Rights Unit under the Office of the Ombudsman held at the Senegambia Beach Hotel, Ms Sisay said: “The Gambia signed and ratified the CRC and [the] African Charter. A Children’s Act is also in place. The Gambia signed and ratified without reservation the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child in August 1990 and September 20, respectively...By these ratifications, The Gambia has committed itself to fulfilling and protecting all the rights of children, including the right to protection against sexual abuse and exploitation, child labour and trafficking.”

She then called for the rejection of negative practices, such as early marriage, local fostering, that hamper the growth and development of children.

According to her, the Sharia is also very protective of children.

“The Islamic Law ( Sharia) protects the rights of the child even before the birth of the child. However, the misinterpretation of Sharia in our various traditions and cultures has affected the rights of the child and make them vulnerable. We live in a changing world and The Gambia is no exception; peoples’ beliefs and attitudes have also changed.”

She identified sexual abuse and exploitation as a prominent child protection concern in The Gambia. “An emerging child protection concern is the sexual abuse and exploitation of children. Sexual abuse and exploitation of children takes place in the home as well as in public arenas, for example the Tourism Development Area. This form of sexual exploitation is referred to as Child Sex Tourism, which is a form of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children,” she said.

Concerning child trafficking, Ms Sisay said: “Whether working as sex workers or in other forms of work, trafficked children may be vulnerable to HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Even if they are lucky enough to escape, they may find themselves living on the street and forced into hazardous work, including begging and sex work, to survive.”

Therefore, she suggested that Government should protect children against trafficking: “Providing basic protections to victims of child trafficking, as well as prosecuting traffickers to the full extent of the law, are the responsibilty of all governments,” she said.

Other anti-child trafficking measures, she suggested are preventing the recruitment and transportation of children through improving access to education, and stepping up border patrols.

Copyright © 2005 Observer Company Ltd.