Argentina has been ranked 49th out of 60 countries in a new report assessing international responses to the sexual abuse and exploitation of children and adolescents.
At a hearing at Congress this week presenting the study, representatives from the Fundación Red por la Infancia organisation said that while Argentina had good legislation to protect victims, it needed to do more to criminalise specific offences and support victims.
The report, Fuera de las Sombras ("Out of the Shadows"), details how 60 countries around the world (representing 85 percent of the world's population of children and adolescents), prevent and respond to sexual abuse and exploitation.
Argentina finished 49th in the ranking, the lowest of all the assessed nations in the region.
Although the country received praise for its legislation to protect victims – specifically, crimes are not subject to statutes of limitation, trafficking victims are not prosecuted and access to abortion and public healthcare is guaranteed for minors – assessors said the buying and selling of children should be criminalised and the age of consent should be reviewed.
The study was presented in the framework of the Bicameral Commission of the Ombudsman for Children and Adolescents before national senators and deputies, government officials, judges and agency chiefs.
In remarks to those in attendance, Paula Wachter, the executive director of Red por la Infancia, argued that Argentina "needs to build a response system that addresses all dimensions of the problem.”
She called for “good laws that protect children, public policies that increase protective measures, [and] a commitment from governments to develop a national plan to prevent and address child sexual violence with adequate budgets.”
"We also need support and recovery systems for child victims and a child-friendly justice process that punishes perpetrators in a timely manner," she added.
Wachter remarked that "as in the rest of the world, Argentina faces the greatest challenges in developing a national plan to combat sexual abuse and in producing reliable statistics on cases of violence against children and how they are resolved in the judicial process.”
The official said, however, that "Argentina has several strengths such as adherence to international conventions and victim support laws and access to the ILE [abortion care] is guaranteed to victims of rape.”
According to the report, some 400 million children and adolescents are victims of sexual exploitation and abuse worldwide. Prevalence is similar in all countries, regardless of their level of development.