Crimes harming children on rise in Honduras, says rights experts

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Honduran farm girls
Because of discrimination, marginalization and poverty these two rural girls from the farm region of Tierra Colorado, Santa Bárbara, Honduras are dangerously in line to become targets of human trafficking. Without proper protection acts of corruption, exploitation of children and trafficking in Honduras is not decreasing, says UN expert Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid. These acts are actually increasing as holes in government agency control of crimes in the country continues. Image: Lon&Queta/Flickr

(WNN) United Nations Geneva, SWITZERLAND, WESTERN EUROPE: In early 2014 U.S. Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College, Mark Ungar, who is also a faculty member of the Criminal Justice Doctoral Program at the CUNY Graduate Center, witnessed a judge of the Honduran courts being gunned down in early 2014 on the sidewalk in what he describes as “broad daylight.” Experts agree, Honduras is a region where corruption and crime continues to go unpunished despite efforts to stop this.

Child exploitation, labor bondage, organ trafficking and illegal adoption is also an ongoing problem that award winning Moroccan medical doctor in pediatrics and UN expert Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid says is not decreasing. The crimes are actually increasing, she outlines.

As a United Nations expert on children, exploitation and human rights Dr. M’jid has spoken out against the lagging policy measures to assist children in Honduras before. But without a system that will bring criminals to justice can any improvements take hold?, ask child advocates inside and outside the region.

In an increasing and troubling number of reported cases of human trafficking, including labor and sex-trafficking, Honduran children who often come from the poorest families are facing adoption procedures where potential corruption, abuse and exploitation exists, says Dr. M’jid who is officially known as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

For the past two years Special Rapporteur Dr. M’jid has worked to get a close-up inside view of the ongoing problems too many children in Honduras face each day.

“Many children are at risk of falling victim [to] exploitation and abuse because the same risk factors that I signaled two years ago persist,” Special Rapporteur Dr. M’jid stated following a five day trip to the city of Tegucigalpa, commonly known at Tegus, the seat of government and the capital city of Honduras.

The government must immediately adopt measures to effectively protect children, outlined the Special Rapporteur during her most recent visit to the country. Two years ago the Special Rapporteur witnessed the same faltering conditions, but it is now worse, she communicated. Since that time, hard conditions for children who are often considered society’s ‘throw-aways’ has increased.

The number of complaints related to sexual exploitation and abuse, early pregnancy, sale, trafficking and child labor have increased, Dr. M’jid conveyed.

Visiting IHNFA – Honduran Institute for Children and the Family along with Casa Alianza, a charity working to help homeless youth in Honduras, as well as in Guatemala, Mexico and Nicaragua, the UN expert did see programs that are clearly working to benefit children. But greater coordination and follow-up for care services needs to be provided and supported more fully by the Honduran government, the UN expert emphasized.

Risk factors that work against children have been increasing in the region of Honduras over the past two years. These include poverty, unemployment, insecurity, violence and proliferation of firearms, and migration.

With the expansion of the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Children in Honduras, steps to strengthen safety for children has begun, but the current legislation in the country does not define child trafficking as a specific crime per se. Honduras also has yet to sign on in the effort to ratify the Intercountry Adoption Convention at the Hague, a project that is working to oversee specific protections under human rights for children who are adopted ‘out-of-country’.

In the past two years the Honduran government has also closed a national complaints hotline that helped to monitor child abuse, labor exploitation, as well as child trafficking  in the region. While some regions have created training for police on issues of child exploitation, the depth of the training and its sustainability is weak, outlined the Special Rapporteur in a comprehensive January 2013 report delivered to the UN General Assembly.

“Honduras has a number of laws and statutes that aim to protect the rights of the child. Despite efforts to harmonize national legislation…there are still gaps in certain areas,” said Special Rapporteur Dr. M’jid in her 2013 report.

“Furthermore, the sale of children (for organ trafficking, child labor, sexual exploitation, illegal adoption, etc.) is not classified as an offense in the Criminal Code, which results in a lack of clarity on the issue. The current provisions are not broad or clear enough to address the problem properly and to punish those who commit such crimes against children,” she added.

Will there ever be a window where conditions can improve for the region?, ask local and international activists. The public opinions for the fate of Honduras is mixed as those closest to the problems are often plagued with fear of reprisals, so much so many feel they cannot safely report the crimes they continue to witness.

“Honduras represents a concentrated place struggling with all the problems the world faces: poverty, crime, inequality, violence, unemployment, youth disenfranchisement, drugs and even climate change…In such conditions, the real heroes are the human rights activists, journalists, judges, women’s rights activists and others who risk their lives for change,” Ungar continued.


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