Torture in  [Costa Rica]  [other countries]
Human Trafficking in  [Costa Rica]  [other countries]
Street Children in  [Costa Rica]  [other countries]
Child Prostitution in  [Costa Rica]  [other countries]

Child Prostitution

The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

In the early years of the 21st Century                                            

Republic of Costa Rica

Costa Rica's basically stable economy depends on tourism, agriculture, and electronics exports.

Poverty has remained around 20% for nearly 20 years, and the strong social safety net that had been put into place by the government has eroded due to increased financial constraints on government expenditures. Immigration from Nicaragua has increasingly become a concern for the government. The estimated 300,000-500,000 Nicaraguans in Costa Rica legally and illegally are an important source of - mostly unskilled - labor, but also place heavy demands on the social welfare system.  [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 Costa Rica.  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.


Innocence for Sale

Tamar Hahn, Mother Jones, Oct. 10, 2000

[accessed 5 May 2011]

Every evening at 6 p.m. she walks out into the streets of San Jose, Costa Rica's capital, wearing an impossibly short miniskirt, high heels, and a tight shirt. She offers oral sex for $15 and what she calls "complete sex" for $50.  Meet Liliana, 11 years old, and already part of Costa Rica's fast-growing work force: child prostitutes.


*** ARCHIVES ***

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]

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - The commercial sexual exploitation of children is a continuing problem in Costa Rica, and is often associated with the country’s sex tourism industry. Costa Rica is a transit and destination point for children trafficked for purposes of commercial sexual exploitation, including prostitution. Most trafficking victims originate from Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Panama, as well as from Russia, the Philippines, Romania, Eastern Europe, and Ecuador. Although most foreign victims remain in Costa Rica, traffickers also attempt to transport them onward to the U.S. and Canada.

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 30 January 2011]

CHILDREN - The government, security officials, and child advocacy organizations acknowledged that the commercial sexual exploitation of children remained serious problems. PANI estimated that three thousand children suffered from commercial sexual exploitation and street children in the urban areas of San Jose, Limon, and Puntarenas were particularly at risk. During the year PANI reported that it provided assistance to minors in 120 separate cases of commercial sexual exploitation.

Human Rights Reports » 2004 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, February 28, 2005

[accessed 27 February 2011]

CHILDREN - The Government, security officials, and child advocacy organizations acknowledged that the commercial sexual exploitation of children remained a serious problem.  In 2003, the NGO Casa Alianza estimated that of the approximately 1,500 children living on the street, 76 percent were addicted to drugs and 29 percent survived by prostitution.

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

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 3 June 2005

[accessed 30 January 2011]

[49] The Committee welcomes the ratification by the State Party of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, as well as the measures taken by the State Party to prevent and combat sexual abuse and exploitation of children. The Committee further welcomes the inclusive participation of Non-Governmental organizations in this process and the development of a National Plan against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents (2001). The Committee also welcomes the direct initiatives in cooperation with hotels and the travel industry to combat sex tourism. However, the Committee remains concerned at the low level of coordination among institutions, the lack of assistance available for victims of sexual exploitation, as well as information received by the Committee whereby the number of children victims of sexual exploitation might be increasing, in particular among street children.

Costa Rica toughens sexual exploitation laws

Reuters, July 19, 2007

[accessed 5 May 2011]

Costa Rica toughened its laws against sexual exploitation of children on Wednesday, banning possession of child pornography and extending the statute of limitations for sex crimes against minors.

The reformed laws ban possession of child pornography for the first time and make sex with children under 13 punishable by up to 16 years in prison.

Police say efforts to crack down on child prostitution has driven it underground into the control of criminal organizations.

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 – COSTA RICA – In terms of protection, there has been an increase in the number of pimps prosecuted. However concern has been expressed that no exploiters have been prosecuted. A training manual has been published by ILO/IPEC and UNICEF that teaches the police how to deal with cases involving CSEC. The manual is being used in capacity building workshops for the police.  A capacity building workshop has been carried out for officials of the judiciary. Three workshops about reporting on CSEC have also been run for members of the press.

Sordid Child Sex Trade Booms in Costa Rica

Glenn Garvin, Toronto Star, 04/29/2000

[accessed 8 January 2015]

Both kids dissolved in giggles. Then the older one looks up, her face solemn. ''Thirty dollars for my little sister, 15 for me," she says.  Meet Stephanie, 12, and Ivette, 13, two members of a fast-growing Costa Rican work force: child prostitutes.  The girls say they've been working as prostitutes for a year, since they were 11 and 12.  Even then, they weren't the youngest on the corner. That would be 9-year-old Iliana, who left home after being repeatedly sexually molested by an uncle.

Country Report -Costa Rica

iAbolish, The American Anti-Slavery Group

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 5 May 2011]

A VICTIM’S STORY - In 1999, several underage Costa Rican girls testified to being lured to a party by Boston physician Arthur Kanev and Oklahoma City dog trainer Joe Baker. The girls, aged 11 to 16, were each bribed with $40 only to later be drugged, raped, and have over 300 nude photographs taken of them. Both Baker and Kanev were arrested only to post bail soon after. Today they are free, still in possession of child pornography (which is legal in Costa Rica) and regularly visited by underage girls at a house in Costa Rica.

The girls abused by Baker and Kanev are certainly not alone. Costa Rica hosts the fastest-growing network of sexual exploitation and trafficking of children and the largest number of child prostitutes in Central America.

UNICEF Works To Eradicate Child Sexual Exploitation

The Washington Times - : Costa Rica 2002

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 5 May 2011]

The studies revealed that there are three types of factors that cause children to become involved in sexual commercial exploitation: the environment of sexual commerce; the family context; and their life histories, which make the children vulnerable to mistreatment and victimization.

In regards to the environment, the presence of domestic abusers as well as foreign tourists leads to three major types of intermediaries: bar and hotels owners, taxi drivers, and pimps. It is important to educate people so as not to judge girls too quickly, based on their appearance, as prostitutes. According to Ms. Alfaro, this attitude and its side effects are important aspects in the process.

In regards to family life, the primary factors in making children vulnerable to sexual exploitation were poverty and family violence. Various risk factors come into play, including: a record of previous sexual abuse, running away, staying on the street, paternal neglect, abused mothers, and the consumption of drugs and alcohol.

According to UNICEF-Costa Rica, child sexual commercial exploitation is considered to be a severe violation of children and adolescents, and it is recognized as a national problem that manifests itself through the sex trade, trafficking, and child and adolescent pornography.

Moreover, it must be remembered that the boys, girls and adolescents engaged in prostitution are always the victims and the fault lies with the adults who exploit children.

Child Prostitution: A Growing Scourge

W. E. Gutman, The Panama News, Tegucigalpa, Vol. 10, No. 7, April - 17, 2004

[accessed 5 May 2011]

[accessed 4 November 2016]

A REGION OUT OF CONTROL - Costa Rica is fast rising as the hemispheric capital of sex tourism.  According to Casa Alianza, more than 3,000 girls and young women work in San Jose’s 300 brothels.  Commercial sexual exploitation of minors in Costa Rica is said to draw as many as 5,000 tourists a year.  Most children who succumb to prostitution do so before they turn 12.

Child Prostitution a Growing Problem

Nefer Munoz, Inter Press Service News Agency IPS, SAN JOSE, 16 March 1999

[accessed 5 May 2011]

"Because in Thailand and other countries in Asia, there are now increasing restrictions on sexual tourism, many of the tourists who looking for this vice, are now coming to Central America and other parts of Latin America", he says.  The government, however, is aware of the issue and has taken measures to combat the problem. Airliners bringing tourists to Costa Rica now carry printed warnings that it is illegal to engage minors in prostitution.

Prostitution Is 'Dark Side of Tourism'

Serge F. Kovaleski, The Washington Post, San Jose, January 2, 2000; Page A17

[accessed 5 May 2011]

David, a stocky, unkempt man who insisted that only his first name be used, boasted of how he had arranged for one of the many taxi drivers connected with the sex trade to bring a 13-year-old girl from her parents' home in a poor San Jose neighborhood to his hotel. The girl's mother and father asked for $400 for use of the girl, which David said he eagerly paid.

Costa Rica's Principal Child Pimp Arrested

Casa Alianza / Covenant House, 10-13-2003

[accessed 5 May 2011]

Sinai Monge Munoz, 41, was arrested on Thursday evening after a successful sting operation in the Hatillo 3 suburb of the capital of San Jose after two young girls were delivered to undercover police officers for sex. According to reports, at least 15 young girls - from 14 years old - were being pimped by Monge to scores of social and political "elites" who would pay US$ 300 to have sex with the under aged children.

Deaths Force Costa Rica To Fight Child-Sex Trade

Frances Robles, The Miami Herald,  San Jose, May 14, 2001

[accessed 5 May 2011]

But finally, because hers was the second set of teen-prostitute body parts to appear along San Jose's river banks, the government had to admit not only that Costa Rica might be teeming with teenage prostitutes, but also that someone might be stalking the girls.

Protection Project - Costa Rica [DOC]

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

[accessed 2009]

FACTORS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO THE TRAFFICKING INFRASTRUCTURE - Costa Rica’s popularity as a tourist destination is linked with its reputation as a destination for sex tourists, many of whom seek to exploit children. The problem of child sexual exploitation has spread from San José, Costa Rica, to the coastal towns, where a large labor pool and growing cruise ship industry provide a large customer base. Other conditions allow this industry to flourish, such as an ingrained acceptance of sexual relations between men and underage girls, public corruption, and lack of money for the police and prosecutors. Investigations into sexual exploitation of minors used to focus on San José, but now they more frequently involve coastal areas, particularly Puntarenas and Quepos on the Pacific and Limón and Sixaola on the Caribbean. There is less police control in these areas and much local corruption. The port city of Limón is reported to have a child prostitution ring involving cruise ship crews and operators: intermediaries on the ships contact tourists interested in the sex trade and in having sex with willing young people. Investigations and studies have found that child prostitution and child pornography rings in Central America are linked and that they also have ties to groups involved in the drug trade and in other illegal activities

Sex tourism: Lessons learned in Costa Rica

Philip Wright, Producer, Child Rescuers, BBC News, 18 June, 2004

[accessed 5 May 2011]

Ordinary Costa Ricans, from taxi drivers to hoteliers, are taking official tourism classes as part of the country's latest attempt to stop the abuse of children by international sex tourists.

The Central American holiday destination is sending thousands of tourism workers, from hotel receptionists to tour guides, on training courses to get the message across that it is not a good idea to help tourists find under-age girls for sex.   It is part of the Code of Conduct drawn up by the industry and children's rights campaigners.   Costa Rica is the only country so far to adopt it throughout its tourism industry.

Sex Tourism Plagues Central America

Paul Jeffrey, United Methodist Women UMW, Response

[accessed 5 May 2011]

Street children who used to sniff relatively inexpensive glue are now turning to crack, readily available in the region as Central American military officials, no longer living high on the hog from U.S. military assistance, turn to drug trafficking to make money. Since crack is more costly than glue, street kids are more likely to sell their bodies to finance their habit.  In Costa Rica, where tourism is the largest source of foreign currency, the director of the government's Judicial Investigation Unit estimated in 1998 that at least 5,000 of 1 million foreign visitors were "sex tourists."

Child rights advocate speaks at U.N. meeting on contemporary slavery

Honduras This Week, June 28, 1999 Online Edition 163

[accessed 5 May 2011]

[article on the right] . "If you are an enterprising foreigner in Honduras, you can set up a bar and offer little Honduran girls for sex to the other visiting tourists. Or in Costa Rica, if you are a tourist, you can buy sex from little girls, but often only in the morning as they have to go to primary school in the afternoon," he added.

In his presentation, Harris described the worrisome boom of child sex tourism in Costa Rica and Honduras, where more and more visitors are coming each year exclusively to have sex with minors. Attacked by a complex network that involves Internet sites, local hotels and bars, taxi drivers, and "professional" pimps, numerous poor girls and boys -- as young as 10 years old -- are falling victims to those sex predators, as they find in prostitution their only means of survival.

Commercial Sexual Exploitation Of Children (CSEC)

James Varney, The Times Picayune (New Orleans), Sikaola Costa Rica

[accessed 3 July 2011]

[scroll down]

"As they say in this dingy border junction with Panama, everything has a price. Sex with children, for example, starts at $14.41. ‘ Just take a look around,’ said Nautilio Sanchez, a furniture store and pharmacy owner who is president of the local Council for Social Development. ‘There is no playground, no swimming pool, the children have nothing and so they turn to sex. Probably 60 percent of our prostitutes here are children, and what we're facing now is a critical problem in search of a solution…So is all of Costa Rica” -Sikaola, Costa Rica: James Varney, The Times Picayune (New Orleans)

Regional Governmental Congress on Sexual Exploitation of Children  [PDF]

Ingrid Parras Jiménez, National Plan against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents

[accessed 19 November 2016]

All material used herein reproduced under the fair use exception of 17 USC § 107 for noncommercial, nonprofit, and educational use.  PLEASE RESPECT COPYRIGHTS OF COMPONENT ARTICLES.  Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, "Child Prostitution – Costa Rica",, [accessed <date>]



Torture in  [Costa Rica]  [other countries]
Human Trafficking in  [Costa Rica]  [other countries]
Street Children in  [Costa Rica]  [other countries]
Child Prostitution in  [Costa Rica]  [other countries]