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Harsher Laws against Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation of Children Print E-mail
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Written by Shane D. Williams   
Thursday, 20 December 2012 00:00

The National Assembly of Belize passed eight pieces of legislation in its last sitting on Friday, December 14th, in the House of Representatives and Wednesday, December 19th, in the Senate. For human rights activists, two of those bills were of paramount importance- the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Bill, 2012 and the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (Prohibition) Bill, 2012.


On Wednesday, October 5th, the Special Envoy for Women and Children, Mrs. Kim Simplis-Barrow hosted a workshop on the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in Belize. The topic of sex crimes involving children has been a main focus of formal and informal news in Belize recently. Mrs. Barrow famously asked, “When you look into the eyes of some of our Belizean children, will you feel their pain? Will you feel their shame and guilt for the things that have happened to them for which they had no control?” She continued, “The commercial sexual exploitation and other forms of sexual violence that continues to be perpetrated on our children is inexcusable.”

The Bill passed by the National Assembly prohibits and punishes acts of commercial sexual exploitation of children in Belize. It gives effect to and implements the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/crc-sale.htm). The new legislation ensures that, in Mrs. Barrow’s words, “we will no longer treat sexual exploitation and abuse as taboo issues, when they are so rampant in our society.”

Pearl Stuart, Executive Director of the National Committee for Family and Children, led a group of children’s rights activists to the sitting of the House on Friday. The Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Bill and the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (Prohibition) Bill were the last of eight bills up for debate. She said, “I would have stayed until midnight if I had to just to see those Bills passed.” Stuart believes that the passing of the Bills is “the best Christmas present that the children of Belize could have gotten.” She said that human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children are rampant in Belize. In her words, “what we see on the news is only the tip of the iceberg.” The amendments more clearly define and increase the offenses that can be prosecuted under the Acts and provide for stiffer penalties for existing offenses. It allows for the punishment of parents as well.

 The Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Bill prohibits and prescribes punishment for trafficking in persons to give effect to the United Nations Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons. It makes provisions for the offence of trafficking in persons, trafficking for the purpose of adoption, and other related offences.