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Fair and equal treatment of child victims should also be incorporated into each and every principle and provision

Drafters should ensure that special provisions related to the protection of child victims of sex trafficking are incorporated into the law. Such treatment should be afforded to child victims regardless of their or their parents’ or the legal guardian’s race, color, religion, belief, age, family status, culture, language, ethnicity, national or social origin, citizenship, gender, sexual orientation, political or other opinion, disability, property, birth, immigration status, the fact that the person has been trafficked or has participated in the sex industry, or other status. (See UN Trafficking Protocol, Art.14; UNODC Model Law Against Trafficking in Persons, Art.22; Council of Europe Convention Against Trafficking in Human Beings, Preamble)

Drafters should ensure that children who are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation, including prostitution, are not treated as criminals and are not arrested, detained or deported.  Instead, children should be provided with special protection and assistance. (See: UNODC Model Law Against Trafficking in Persons, Art. 10; UN Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking, Principle 7 and Guideline 4(5))

The non-governmental organization “End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and the Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes” (ECPAT) has published a guide for Strengthening Laws Addressing Child Sexual Exploitation, which recommends that special protection and assistance for child victims include:

  • Treatment of a victim as a child to the extent possible where the age is uncertain and until the victim's age is verified;
  • Appointment of a guardian to advocate for the best interests of the child and to accompany the child through the legal process, ensuring that:
    • Direct contact between the child and perpetrator is avoided;
    • The child victim is fully informed about the criminal and security procedures;
    • The child may make an informed decision whether to testify in criminal proceedings ensuring that children who testify are kept safe;
    • Appropriate shelter is provided based upon the child’s age and special needs;
    • Individuals responsible for the care of child victims are adequately trained; and
  • Adoption of clear policies and procedures for the return and repatriation of child victims taking into account the best interests of the child and the capacity of the receiving state to provide long-term assistance;
  • Adoption of clear policies and procedures for the extradition of individuals for the offence of sex trafficking or when extradition does not take place, the prosecution of nationals for sex trafficking offences committed abroad.

Before interviewing child trafficking victims, law enforcement should consult Module 9 of the UNODC Anti-Human Trafficking Manual for Criminal Justice Practitioners, which provides guidelines and good practices for working with child trafficking victims. (See: UNODC Anti-Human Trafficking Manual for Criminal Justice Practitioners, Module 9, 2009.  Guidelines for the use of interpreters are available in Module 10 of the UNODC Anti-Human Trafficking Manual for Criminal Justice Practitioners)

Legislation should include a provision allowing for video or audio recorded testimony by child victims or witnesses or live testimony given in a separate room, away from the perpetrator.

Illustrative Example:

  • United States law, 18 USC § 3509 enumerates a number of provisions afforded to child victims and witnesses, including alternatives to live, in-court testimony for child victims of sexual exploitation. The statute allows for both video recorded testimony and closed circuit television testimony, in which the child is testifying live, but in a room away from the perpetrator. 

(b) Alternatives to Live In-Court Testimony.—

(1) Child’s live testimony by 2-way closed circuit television.—

(A) In a proceeding involving an alleged offense against a child, the attorney for the Government, the child’s attorney, or a guardian ad litem appointed under subsection (h) may apply for an order that the child’s testimony be taken in a room outside the courtroom and be televised by 2-way closed circuit television. The person seeking such an order shall apply for such an order at least 7 days before the trial date, unless the court finds on the record that the need for such an order was not reasonably foreseeable.

(2) Videotaped deposition of child.—

(A) In a proceeding involving an alleged offense against a child, the attorney for the Government, the child’s attorney, the child’s parent or legal guardian, or the guardian ad litem appointed under subsection (h) may apply for an order that a deposition be taken of the child’s testimony and that the deposition be recorded and preserved on videotape.

For both alternatives, the law sates that such alternatives should be available if the court finds that the child is unable to testify in open court for any of the following reasons:

(i) The child is unable to testify because of fear.

(ii) There is a substantial likelihood, established by expert testimony, that the child would suffer emotional trauma from testifying.

(iii) The child suffers a mental or other infirmity.

(iv) Conduct by defendant or defense counsel causes the child to be unable to continue testifying. 

(See: 18 USC § 3509)

Tool:

UNICEF/Asociación por los Derechos Civiles, Guia de buenas prácticas para el abordaje judicial de niños, niñas, adolescentes victimas o testigos de violencia, abuso sexual y otros delitos (2010). This guide is for judicial personnel and other professionals working with child and adolescent victims and witnesses of violence in justice processes. The guide comprises three sections that cover guiding principles and international standards for working with child and adolescent victims and witnesses; guidance for interviews with children and adolescents, including the rationale, objectives and components of interviews, training and monitoring and infrastructure needed; and specific steps for each phase of the investigation process. Available in Spanish.