Children in Pacific Island countries are at high risk of being traded for sex by family members and friends, a United Nations study has found.
The report from studies in five Pacific Island countries found an alarming degree of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and that "children are most at risk in their homes and communities and with people they know and trust".
The report, by the UN Children's Fund Pacific, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific and End Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes, is based on studies in 2004 and 2005 in Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
The report in its summary said the five studies confirmed that in each country children were sexually abused by family members and neighbours, and that child prostitution, child pornography, early marriage, child sex tourism and trafficking occurred.
The perpetrators of the abuse and exploitation were "overwhelmingly males and typically men with resources or other power in the community".
While there were some incidences of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation committed by foreign tourists and foreign workers in the Pacific, the problem of sexual violence against children was predominantly by local men, the report found.
Under-reporting and inadequate data collection of official statistics did not accurately capture the prevalence of child sexual abuse and the report found actual rates might be significantly higher.
Evidence from government agencies, non-government organisations, UN agencies, police and child victims presented in the report show that sexual violence in the Pacific to be a problem of grave concern.
The Solomon Islands study found reports of sexually transmitted infections in children as young as between one and three years old were a clear indicator of the existence of child sexual abuse in that country.
In all countries, the studies found incidences of exploiting children in exchange for cash or for goods and services, including food, alcohol, transport to school (taxi rides), clothes and small gifts.
Factors such as the low status of women and children, poverty and the lack of educational and employment opportunities and little protective legislation, services and regulation were cited as contributing to making Pacific children highly vulnerable to sexual violence.
The report emphasised "an absence of comprehensive, well-resourced and well-planned local, national and regional efforts to deal with sexual violence against children in the Pacific region".