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OPSC Legal Reform Project

31/05/2011  | Child Rights International Network


OPSC Legal Reform Project

Project Goals

This project examines the implementation of the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (OPSC) in national law around the globe. Looking at how the OPSC has influenced legal reform in individual countries across different regions, we hope to inspire advocates in these and other jurisdictions to promote national legislation and policies that better respect the rights of children under the OPSC. Through this, we also seek to encourage positive legal change in the ways that our justice systems address child victims of exploitation and violence in general.

The OPSC in Brief

The OPSC criminalises actions relating to the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. While these actions amount primarily to various forms of sexual exploitation of children, the OPSC does also address the sale of children for other purposes including forced labour and removal of organs. Notably, although many of the offences described in the OPSC occur in the context of movement across borders, child trafficking and the sale or sexual exploitation of children are not identical and only the latter are directly addressed by the Protocol.

In addition to criminalising offenses related to the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography, the OPSC encourages countries to assert broad jurisdiction over these offences and calls on governments to impose criminal liability on corporations and other business enterprises implicated in exploitative activities. In line with child-friendly justice principles, which demand special care and treatment for children in their interactions with the legal system, the OPSC also sets out the rights of child victims to protection, support, recovery, and compensation.

To date, the OPSC is in force in over 150 countries, and there is a campaign for universal ratification under way.  For further information:

Country Reports

Our individual country reports review the national laws, policies and programmes that have been designed to implement the rights contained in the OPSC. The reports aim to uncover legal reforms undertaken by national governments following their ratification of the OPSC and to assess how and whether these laws have brought that country into compliance with its international obligations under the Protocol. We have also reached out to children's rights NGOs working in the countries selected to gain a better sense of the current legal landscape and ascertain the existence of any relevant contemplated or pending legislation.

The reports themselves contain three columns of information, with subject area descriptions and related OPSC provisions listed along the left-hand side. The first column presents the current state of national law; the second column details any relevant legal reforms that have occurred to bring national legislation in line with the OPSC, and the third column analyses national legal compliance with the OPSC as determined by the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

Read the country reports for:

Progress

We will continue to produce additional individual country reports, and - as the project progresses – will begin to compare and analyse national governments' progress in meeting their obligations under the Optional Protocol. Eventually, we plan to publish an advocacy-focused guide to legal reform with helpful hints and information for those pushing for greater implementation and enforcement of the OPSC on the ground.

Research Path

Documents filed as part of the Committee on the Rights of the Child's reporting procedure including periodic State reports, the Committee's Concluding Observations, and Alternative reports prepared by national and international NGOs provided the initial information for each individual OPSC country report. Given the potentially rapid pace of legal reform, laws cited in State and Alternative reports were verified with primary sources wherever possible and updated as necessary.

More topical international resources were also examined, ranging from government responses to the follow-up questionnaire for the United Nations Study of Violence Against Children to reports of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children and Special Rapporteur on trafficking.  

The International Labour Organization's International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) contains resources on forced labour, commercial sexual exploitation, and trafficking, as does the ILO's NATLEX database of national labour, social security, and related human rights legislation. The International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) maintains a database of its members' national legislation on sexual offences against children, Shared Hope International offers a selection of national laws on trafficking, and a separate project based out of the United States runs a research website on child prostitution containing extensive materials and links to relevant news articles for most countries around the world.  

Many national governments and government departments also make information on legal regimes, programmes and initatives relevant to the OPSC publicly available through official websites.

Looking to civil society, organisations focused on children's rights proved a particularly invaluable resource. UNICEF's main website and the UNICEF Innocenti Centre both offer searchable databases of their publications, while End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT) has prepared a number of country reports on the commercial sexual exploitation of children as part of its Agenda for Action programme.  

On the individual country level, reviewing information from national NGOs provided much needed context to the reports.  In addition, to ensure that the project remains connected with those in the field, the asssistance of national NGOs with children's rights expertise was sought to review the reports for accuracy, resolve inconsistencies or queries that arose during research, and supply additional relevant information.  We believe that this consultation was especially crucial to the success of this project, and are very grateful to the many committed advocates who have offered their sage advice.

Further Resources

Legal Reform News