What is Human Trafficking and what is modern day slavery?  HT and contemporary slavery include debt bondage, serfdom, forced labor, forced marriage, transferring of wives, inheritance of wives, and transfer of a child for purposes of exploitation.  Also forced prostitution, child prostitution, sale of children, and trafficking in children.

Child Prostitution

The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

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Child prostitution means the use of a child in sexual activities for remuneration or any other form of consideration, including food, housing, drugs, or other commodities or intangibles such as approval or care.  It is an age old and global problem that has existed for centuries.

Child prostitution is found in both developed and developing countries despite attempts to control the practice. The 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a child as someone under age 18 years. Child prostitution, as laid out in the 1990-94 reports of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, involves the sexual exploitation of a child for remuneration in cash or in kind, usually organized by an intermediary such as a parent, family member, procurer, or teacher. Child prostitution is unacceptable because it exploits and victimizes the child. It undermines development and is detrimental to physical and emotional health. Although laws against child prostitution exist to some extent in all countries, many countries set the age of consent for sexual intercourse between 13 and 17 years. The largest number of child prostitutes can be found in Asia and Central and South America, although reports indicate an increase in the level of child prostitution in Africa, North America, Europe, and Australia. Supply and demand being worldwide, however, child prostitution affects all countries1.

It is estimated that there are 35,000 children working as prostitutes in Colombia, with between 5,000 and 10,000 of them on the streets of Bogotá.  Many of the kids that live in the streets were displaced from different parts of Colombia by the recent violence.  Many of them end up in prostitution because of domestic problems or are forced into it by their families to earn money2.  In southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, China and the Philippines, child prostitution has become pervasive, with recent statistics revealing as many as 800,000 child prostitutes in Thailand alone, with prostitution for some children beginning as early as age six3.

The definition of child prostitution needs to encompass many circumstances including young runaways who exchange sex for a bed and a roof over one’s head for the night, as well as a child exchanging sex for some form of payment such as money, drink, drugs and other goods of worth. Research overwhelmingly suggests that children involved in selling sex have experienced damaged and chaotic lives. Sexual and physical abuse, poverty, rejection, drug dependence and coercion into prostitution by manipulative and dangerous adults are some of the experiences that children often report. There is clear evidence that some young girls are “groomed” into prostitution by pimps or “boyfriends”. Their peers introduce some young people into prostitution, usually as part of the last chapter in a complex story in which these young people have suffered collective and systematic abuse of their rights and dignity. The more difficult the young person’s problems, the more difficult it is for a young person to exit and recover from prostitution4.

Young people become involved in this sort of exchange or trade either at an opportunistic level, or else to survive from day to day.  Some of these children have felt forced to leave home because they were being sexually abused and raped by members within their own extended family.  For many, the education system let them down at an early age and they drop out.  A small proportion of these young people end up becoming professionally involved, engaging in sexual activity with adults as a full time job.  Children should not have to engage in sex for their survival. The real problem, rarely addressed, is that adults (the majority of whom are men) are actively seeking out these youngsters to sexually exploit5.

Nevertheless, the vast majority of these children do not enter into prostitution voluntarily - they are enticed or coerced or are utterly desperate.  Vulnerable children with low self-esteem are identified and targeted by abusers.  The problem is not new but it is a hidden one - it is not known how many children are involved.  Children who are sexually exploited are exposed to abuse and assault, and that robs them of their childhood, self-esteem, and opportunities for good health, education and training6.  The impact of the abuse can be life-long, often resulting in emotional and physical problems as well as behavioral problems such: as prostitution, street youth, crime and homelessness.  Survivors often lose a sense of personal power and have difficulty making good, choices as adults.  For the survivor who was abused as a child by a group of adults there is no safe place. People "out there" do not offer safety and protection; survivors always feel isolated, powerless and helpless7.  It is important that these youngsters be regarded as victims of abuse and at risk of significant harm.

It is wrong to exploit any person. It is even more wrong if that person is a child. And when abuse takes the form of the commercial sexual exploitation of the young, it is an abhorrent criminal act, and we must put an end to it8.



1.    Muntarbhorn, V, International Perspectives And Child Prostitution In Asia www.popline.org/docs/128284

2.    Garry Leech, Combating Child Prostitution in Colombia www.colombiajournal.org/colombia111.htm

3.    Philip Preville, Asian child prostitution a symbol of APEC's nefarious plan www.montrealmirror.com/ARCHIVES/1997/101697/news4.html

4.    Wendy Shepherd, Adults And Young People Abused Through Prostitution In The UK www.sexualhealthmatters.com/v4iss3/article5.html

5.    ECPAT, Child Prostitutes Are Victims, Not Offenders

6.    Lincolnshire County Council, Children Who Are Sexually Exploited www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/section.asp?pageType=1&docId=28263

7.    Michael C. Irving, PhD, Child Prostitution And Child Sex Rings www.m-a-h.net/library/abuse/article-sexrings.htm

8.    The Honorable Lloyd Axworthy, Notes For An Address at the World Congress Against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation Of Children, Stockholm, Sweden, August 27, 1996 w01.international.gc.ca/minpub/Publication.asp?publication_id=377013&Language=E