Gender, rights and responsibilities: The need for a global analysis of the sexual exploitation of boys
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The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child confirmed child and youth rights globally. Their right to participation is a critical driver for the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Youth prioritize the need to end violence against them, charging adults with safeguarding, and identify gender inequality as an underlying cause of child sexual exploitation (CSE). SDG 5 includes targets for ending sexual exploitation of girls; however, it is critical to review whether we are supporting both boys and girls adequately. Based on recent research, it is clear that male victims of CSE are prevalent, yet they have been relatively excluded in policy, research, and interventions. The aim is not to minimize the importance of understanding and eliminating CSE of girls, but to acknowledge that vulnerable sub-groups of boys exist in community (street-connected boys, refugees, sexual minorities) and service systems (justice, child welfare, humanitarian aid). Gender-based challenges persist in protection, disclosure, help-seeking, professional recognition, programming and prevention. In this discussion article, we outline responsibilities in human rights law to understand and address boys' CSE and overview key literature on its impact on boys. It is argued that gender-, trauma-, and violence-informed approaches are expanded to address the contribution of harmful gender norms, and to target prevention in the adolescent years for sexually transmitted infections, mental health, and substance abuse and violence problems. This discussion advances a pressing need for a global analysis of CSE among boys.
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