The UN Special Rapporteur on the Sale and Sexual Exploitation of Children has urged parents in The Gambia to allow victimised children to speak up about their ordeal to ensure perpetrators are held to account.

Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, who is on a nine-day working visit to the country, will submit a report to the Gambia government on combating the crimes of child sexual exploitation and provision of treatment to victims.

“This is really a big issue… therefore there is a need for sensitisation of the society to allow children to speak up and for parents to understand these are crimes that should be eradicated and they should not be involve in facilitating these crimes,” Ms Maud de Boer-Buquicchio said on Wednesday during a news conference at UN House in Bakau.

“There is culture of silence in this country because people don’t want to discuss this matter and even if the child will be in a position to make an initial declaration to the police there is often a pressure within the family and this cases are subsequently dropped,” she added.

She said despite The Gambia having laws and institutions protecting the rights of children “there is real need for additional resources which include providing appropriate knowledge of training and skills to addressing sexual violence against children”.

Mrs. Boer-Buquicchio said victims of violence including children who have been abandoned and picked up in the streets because they have been living at places where they didn’t want to be taken care of and “they were subjected to violence whether in the family or in the schools these children should be assisted”.

She urged for training of more staff and security officers with the requisite knowledge and equipment to addressing the growing violation of children’s rights in the Gambia.

She also called for proper coordination among actors in the protection of children’s rights “this needs to be encouraged amongst the ministries and other child rights protection so, the children need to know who they turn to”.

Reporting by Adama Makasuba

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