HM The Queen's speech at the Swedish government's conference on human trafficking for sexual purposes
Scandinavian XPO, Arlanda stad
(The spoken version shall take precedence)
Ladies and gentlemen
We gather here today with a shared ambition to address the demand that fosters trafficking for sexual purposes.
Trafficking in human beings is a despicable crime that violates the human rights of its many victims.
The vast majority of victims of trafficking are women exploited for sexual purposes. And as many as 1 out of 3 identified victims of trafficking are children.
This is unacceptable. All children have a right to be safe and have a childhood free from violence and exploitation.
Preventing violence and sexual abuse of children has been close to my heart for many years. More than 20 years ago, I founded World Childhood Foundation. The inspiration came from children I met. I saw their suffering and vulnerability, but also their resilience and strength.
I hoped that I could use my voice to shine a light on the global problem of child sexual abuse and exploitation. To speak about the unspeakable, and to give children back their right to a childhood. But I did not start a foundation with the intention to only speak. I did it because I wanted to enable concrete action for children most at risk. And because I firmly believe that we need to start early. We need to address the vulnerabilities and risks that make up the root causes of exploitation.
And because I believe in partnerships.
Together, in partnership, we can shine a light on the problem.
Because despite the severity of the crime and the scale of the problem, we must not despair. A lot of things are actually getting better. Child sexual abuse and exploitation is now spoken about. Slowly but surely responsibility and shame is put where it belongs, with the perpetrators. Survivors are speaking up, holding us all accountable.
We also see international collaboration on a different scale than 20 years ago. The private sector is joining in together with public and civil society.
But the times we live in also presents new challenges.
The speed of technological advancements we experience today is sometimes overwhelming. We must, however, not only see the risks. Technology also offers the potential to deliver solutions that protect and empower children.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Effective legislation is a cornerstone for a sustainable change of norms and behaviours in society. And I am proud that Sweden has adopted pioneering legislation, which demonstrate that we are constantly pushing the norms and challenge behaviours that previously was accepted.
Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has forced millions to flee for their lives. Ruthless traffickers are taking advantage of the situation, and refugees are being forced into prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation.
The situation for these victims is of utmost urgency, and the war in Ukraine is only one of many crises driving people into the hands of traffickers. Wherever there is poverty, unrest and inequality, there is risk for exploitation. Even here in Sweden, there are victims of trafficking.
The aim of this conference is to discuss different means to target the demand that fosters trafficking for sexual purposes. I welcome this focus which is key to ensure a zero-vision for trafficking in human beings. As long as people are willing to pay for sexual services, the trafficking will continue.
We will hear from different countries and different professions. We will listen to policy makers and practitioners, discussing the road forward to get to the bottom with this problem.
We will also listen to survivors of trafficking. Their experiences must always be at the centre of the discussion. Not only will they remind us that behind each number in the statistics there is an individual girl or boy, woman or man, each with their own personal story. Each survivor brings experiences we need to learn from.
We all need to do more – together – to address trafficking. Therefore, I am especially happy for the gathering here today. This shows our joint commitment.
I know sexual abuse and exploitation is not an easy topic to speak about. But if we don’t speak up – who will? I ask you today to use your voices: Let children who have suffered sexual exploitation and victims of trafficking understand that we believe them, that they are not alone, that we will protect them and not the perpetrators.
But even more importantly. We need to act. In partnership.
So let us get to work!