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The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

In the early years of the 21st Century, 2000 to 2025                      


Colombia has experienced accelerating growth between 2002 and 2007, with expansion above 7% in 2007, chiefly due to advancements in domestic security, to rising commodity prices, and to President URIBE's promarket economic policies. Colombia's sustained growth helped reduce poverty by 20% and cut unemployment by 25% since 2002. Additionally, investor friendly reforms to Colombia's hydrocarbon sector and the US-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA) negotiations have attracted record levels of foreign investment. Inequality, underemployment, and narco-trafficking remain significant challenges, and Colombia's infrastructure requires significant updating in order to sustain expansion.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]


CAUTION:  The following links and accompanying text have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Colombia.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated, misleading or even false.   No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of child prostitution are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring how children got started, how they survive, and how some succeed in leaving.  Perhaps your paper could focus on runaways and the abuse that led to their leaving.  Other factors of interest might be poverty, rejection, drug dependence, coercion, violence, addiction, hunger, neglect, etc.  On the other hand, you might choose to write about the manipulative and dangerous adults who control this activity.  There is a lot to the subject of Child Prostitution.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.

HELP for Victims

International Organization for Migration
1 622 77 74
Country code: 57-



Sexual exploitation of minors taints Colombia's Caribbean tourist city [DOC]

Vanessa Arrington, Associated Press AP Worldstream, Cartagena, 09-29-2004

[accessed 2 May 2011]

The city has become a magnet for men, many of them Europeans, seeking sex with young girls and sometimes boys, many of them from families displaced from their rural homes by fighting among leftist rebels, government forces and right-wing paramilitary groups.

An estimated 1,500 girls and boys work in Cartagena's sex industry. Over the last three years, Renacer has learned of girls as young as 7 and boys as young as 9 being sexually exploited, Cardenas says.

"The kids are on the street because of desperation," says Bruce Harris, the former Latin America director of Casa Alianza, a children's rights group. "The last thing they have to sell is themselves. This is mixed with the fact that the laws for the most part are still very weak, and there's corruption in the application of the law."  Bolivar Province's police chief, Col. Jesus Gomez, who oversees Cartagena, says detectives are investigating criminal sex rings in the city, but have yet to make any arrests.


*** ARCHIVES ***

ECPAT Country Monitoring Report [PDF]

ECPAT International, 2014

[accessed 26 August 2020]


Desk review of existing information on the sexual exploitation of children (SEC) in Colombia. The report looks at protection mechanisms, responses, preventive measures, child and youth participation in fighting SEC, and makes recommendations for action against SEC.

Human Rights Reports » 2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 10, 2020

[accessed 23 August 2020]

SEXUAL EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN - Sexual exploitation of children remained a problem. The law prohibits sexual exploitation of a minor or facilitating the sexual exploitation of a minor and stipulates a penalty of 14 to 25 years in prison, with aggravated penalties for perpetrators who are family members of the victim and for cases of sexual tourism, forced marriage, or sexual exploitation by illegal armed groups. The law prohibits pornography using children younger than 18 and stipulates a penalty of 10 to 20 years in prison and a fine for violations. The minimum age for consensual sex is 14. The penalty for sexual activity with a child younger than 14 ranges from nine to 13 years in prison. The government generally enforced the law.

The Attorney General’s Office reported opening 796 investigations related to cases of child pornography and sentenced 24 perpetrators. In September, Liliana Campo Puello, whom authorities charged with running an extensive child trafficking ring for the purposes of sexual exploitation, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to eight years in prison. Her father, Carlos Enrique Campo Caballero, was also convicted and sentenced to 56 months’ imprisonment. The judge in the case accused Puello of continuing to operate the trafficking ring while imprisoned. In 2018 authorities in Cartagena arrested Puello as part of a three-day operation, during which they arrested 18 persons and charged them with the sexual exploitation of more than 250 women and girls. Prosecutors alleged that some of the women and girls were tattooed and trafficked for purposes of commercial sexual exploitation. Media reported authorities conducted several raids to dismantle networks of sexual exploitation of minors in Cartagena and other cities in 2018. In total, 42 persons were captured, and goods valued at 154 billion Colombian pesos ($49 million) were seized. Commercial sexual exploitation of children in mining areas remained widespread.

2018 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking, Bureau of International Labor Affairs, US Dept of Labor, 2019

[accessed 22 August 2020]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

[page 355]

Commercial sexual exploitation of children occurs more often in private homes rented online than in commercial establishments. (4,9) In Bucaramanga, child victims of commercial sexual exploitation are allegedly recruited in schools by other students. (35) In mining areas, trafficking of children for forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation is widespread. (4,25,36) Reports also indicate that criminal gangs and dissident groups recruit Colombian and Venezuelan children to produce and traffic drugs and commit homicides and extortion. (37,38)

Some civil society groups report that the forced recruitment and use of minors in Colombia by illegal armed groups, including Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) dissidents, the National Liberation Army, the Popular Liberation Army, and non-ideological criminal organizations such as the Gulf Clan, continued and increased from 2017 to 2018. (2,25,39,40)  Children are recruited to perform intelligence and logistical activities, store and transport weapons, and engage in commercial sexual exploitation. (4,7,25,32) However, the Colombian government has reported that this recruitment and use of children remained significantly lower than levels prior to the signing of the 2016 peace accord with FARC. (41)

Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 6 October 2000

[accessed 30 January 2011]

[67] While noting with appreciation the revisions to the State party's Penal Code and the establishment of a national plan of action to combat and prevent the sexual exploitation of children, the Committee remains concerned at the insufficient awareness among the population of these issues.

Global Study on Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism: Colombia - 2015

Anika Quiñones and Nelson E. Rivera, ECPAT International, June 2016

[accessed 25 August 2020]

The Global Study provides an overview of the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism.

Five Years After Stockholm [PDF]

ECPAT: Fifth Report on implementation of the Agenda for Action

ECPAT International, November 2001

[accessed 13 September 2011]

[B] COUNTRY UPDATES – COLOMBIA – The National Plan of Action against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Colombia (Plan de Acción en favor de los Derechos de la Infancia Explotada Sexualmente y contra la Explotación Sexual Infantil) is not being implemented. According to the ICBF, which had main responsibility for the plan, it has been developed in an isolated manner and according to the competencies of each institution involved.  As a consequence, the ICBF says it has not been possible to measure its impact. The Inter-institutional Committee to fight the trafficking of women, girls and boys is putting into practice a plan for the prevention and protection of victims and to stop the trafficking of persons.

Combating Child Prostitution in Colombia

Garry Leech, Colombia Journal, April 29, 2002 -- Origininal Source: Colombia Report, an online journal published by the Information Network of the Americas INOTA

[accessed 2 May 2011]

Many parents send their children out into the streets to help support the family by stealing, selling chewing gum and cigarettes, or worse, selling themselves.  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.

Soaring Child Prostitution In Colombia

BBC News World Service, 27 January, 2001

[accessed 2 May 2011]

Clients were often middle-aged foreigners who paid the child-prostitutes around six US dollars. Victims were often addicted to drugs and were as young as nine years old.

Bogota Curfew Aims At Child Sex

BBC News, 13 December, 2001

[accessed 2 May 2011]

The mayor of Bogata has imposed a nighttime curfew on minors to clamp down on child prostitution and reduce crime rates in the Colombian capital.  Children under the age of 16 on the streets after 11pm will be arrested.

Government Is Combatting the Culture of Violence in Colombia, Delegation Says

Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), 25th session, Press Release, 27 September 2000

[accessed 2 May 2011]

The culture of violence which prevailed in Colombia had created a feeling of fear and resignation among the population that understood that impunity was the order of the day.  The violence had led to child prostitution and child gangs which added to the worsening situation of violence.  There were 20,000 street children and each day at least 7 children were killed.  The expert asked about the policies and measures put in place to combat effectively the culture of violence.

Ashoka Fellow Profile - Stella Cárdenas Ovalle

This profile was prepared when Stella Cárdenas Ovalle was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2001

[accessed 2 May 2011]

[accessed 4 November 2016]

THE PROBLEM- A series of factors put children at risk for sexual exploitation in Colombia and leave them unprotected. The war and drug trade have altered family structures that in ordinary times would have provided safety and nurture. The war has also caused the displacement of countless families, some of whose children have been soldiers in the war. Displaced children are particularly vulnerable to being prostituted, even more so in the declining economy.

Colombia Launches Crackdown On Child Prostitution

Reuters, 26 September 1998

[accessed 2 May 2011]

Twenty-nine adults were arrested in the swoop and Trujillo told reporters police had "rescued" 370 child prostitutes, aged between 12 and 16.  "They were being forced to prostitute themselves," Trujillo said. Police sources said many of the minors had been held in virtual "slave-like conditions" and subjected to a whole catalogue of abuse.

The Protection Project - Colombia [DOC]

The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), The Johns Hopkins University

[accessed 2009]

GOVERNMENT RESPONSES - The Ombudsman’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office conducted a study on the prostitution of women and children. The National Police of Colombia runs a prevention program called Colombia without Prostitution. This program is designed to prevent child prostitution through educational activities for families and the community.  In collaboration with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the government also created a Plan of Action on Child Sexual Abuse.

Regional Governmental Congress on Sexual Exploitation of Children  [PDF]

María de Pilar Granados, Ministry of Health, Colombian National Institute of Family Welfare

[accessed 19 November 2016]



Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 7 February 2020]

SECTION 6 WORKER RIGHTS – [d] Although there were no reports of forced child labor in the formal economy, several thousand children were forced to serve as paramilitary or guerrilla combatants, prostitutes, or coca pickers.

The Department of Labor’s 2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

U.S. Dept of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 2005

[accessed 30 January 2011]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - Children are involved in commercial sexual exploitation in Colombia. Commercial sexual exploitation of children is found especially in urban centers and in areas where there are large numbers of men who are separated from families due to work. Children are involved in commercial sexual exploitation either on the streets or in private establishments such as bars, brothels, or massage parlors, and tend to range in age from 13 to 17 years. Colombia is a source and transit country for girls trafficked for sexual exploitation.

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