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The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

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

Republic of The Gambia

The Gambia has no confirmed mineral or natural resource deposits and has a limited agricultural base. About 75% of the population depends on crops and livestock for its livelihood. Small-scale manufacturing activity features the processing of peanuts, fish, and hides.

Unemployment and underemployment rates remain extremely high; short-run economic progress depends on sustained bilateral and multilateral aid, on responsible government economic management, on continued technical assistance from the IMF and bilateral donors, and on expected growth in the construction sector.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Description: Description: Gambia

CAUTION:  The following links and accompanying text have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in The Gambia.  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.


GAMBIA: Rising poverty breeds sexual exploitation of children by Sugar Daddies

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Dakar, 6 May 2004

[accessed 13 March 2015]

The sexual abuse of children in the Gambia is increasing as a result of rising poverty in the small West African country and Gambian men rather than European tourists are mainly responsible for the phenomenon, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said in new report published this week.  Gambia has long been linked with sex tourism, but the UNICEF study, published on Wednesday, found that the main abusers of local children were male Gambian "Sugar Daddies."

“There is a certain tolerance in wider society that this is going on,” Faye told IRIN. She said one of the strongest indications that a traditional taboo on such behaviour is being lifted is the new aggressive pursuit of Sugar Daddies by the children themselves.

Globalization Of Sex Trade [DOC]

Tammy Quintanilla, CLADEM (Comité de Latinoamérica y el Caribe para la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer), 1997

[accessed 19 September 2011]

SEXUAL REGIONALIZATION - In Gambia, middle-aged European women seek sex with young local men. The prevailing model is that of street children, women or boys that use sex to supplement their income from other activities, such as begging.


*** ARCHIVES ***

ECPAT Country Monitoring Report [PDF]

Janelle Martin, ECPAT International, 2015

[accessed 30 August 2020]

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

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 30 August 2020]

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

[page 527]

In The Gambia, children are trafficked internally and subjected to commercial sexual exploitation, forced labor, and domestic work. Girls and boys from West African countries, including Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation. (3,4,15) Tourists from Britain, Germany, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, and Canada also subject children to commercial sexual exploitation in brothels and motels in tourist areas. (4,16)

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 9 February 2020]

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS – In January 2004 a joint UN Children's Fund (UNICEF)-government study reported that children engaged in prostitution in the main tourist resort areas were predominantly underage, some as young as 12. The report stated that the country has become an attraction for suspected or convicted European pedophiles that entered the country as tourists and committed their crimes against children with impunity. Victims of trafficking were children of both sexes, normally younger than 16 to 18 years old, and included both citizens and immigrants or refugees from Sierra Leone, Liberia, Senegal, and Guinea-Bissau. The foreign children were war migrants without proper family support.

Some child prostitution victims stated they worked to support their families, or because they were orphans and their guardian/procurer supported them. The guardian/procurer often assumed the role of the "African uncle," allowing the children to live in his compound with their younger siblings or paying school fees on their behalf in return for their servitude

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

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 12 October 2001

[accessed 6 February 2011]

[64] The Committee is concerned about the large and increasing number of child victims of commercial sexual exploitation, including for prostitution and pornography, especially among child laborers and street children. Concern is also expressed at the insufficient programs for the physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of child victims of such abuse and exploitation.

Koranic schools in Senegal fuel child trafficking

Reuters, DAKAR Senegal, June 16, 2006

[accessed 4 October 2012]

Until recently most countries in West Africa did not have laws to penalize rape or child trafficking, although the situation was improving, Legrand said. But as one government cracked down on abuse, the problem moved to another country. A recent drive against child prostitution in Gambia had driven sex tourism to other parts of the region, such as Togo,

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 – THE GAMBIA– CSEC and especially sex tourism is a problem in the Gambia. There is also ample evidence of sexual abuse within the home and community and of the “bombsters” or “beach boy” phenomenon whereby young people eke out a living from commercial sexual relationships with tourists.

Report by Special Rapporteur [DOC]

UN Economic and Social Council Commission on Human Rights, Fifty-ninth session, 6 January 2003$FILE/G0310090.doc

[accessed 16 May 2011]

[42] The age of criminal liability is 7.  A child under 12 may be criminally liable for involvement in prostitution or pornography if it can be proven that he or she had knowledge to understand the act of commission or omission.   Research on sexual exploitation of children is under way and preparations are being made to harmonize domestic laws with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to enact a Children’s Code and to establish a National Commission on Children.  The necessary laws will be in place in 2003.  Childcare units have been established at the Departments of Social Welfare and the Police, and a Child Protection Alliance, which includes government departments, United Nations agencies, local and international NGOs and other organizations, has developed a National Plan of Action on Child Protection. A Child Rights Unit has been established at the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

Child Sex Tourism And Exploitation Increasing In The Gambia

United Nations Children's Fund UNICEF, Banjul, 5 May 2004

[accessed 16 May 2011]

It reveals the strong existence of a false “glamorization” of prostitution, particularly in sex tourism. “Many children engaged in prostitution spoke of their envy of girls involved in prostitution – their clothes, style and hanging out at nightclubs.” For many, according to the report, being a sex worker “means having access to a lot of cash to buy jeans, shoes, to go to beauty salons for hair and nail care to show off at beach parties and nightclubs.”

Although sex tourism is the more sensational face of the sexual exploitation of children in The Gambia, “sugar daddies” perhaps represent its more pervasive face. This involves sexual abuse and exploitation of young girls by adult Gambian men in exchange for money and gifts, and includes, according to the report, family members, teachers and other trusted adults.

Community attitudes towards  sexual exploitation of children

Olymatou Cox, The Gambia, The African Social Science Journalist [Published by students in the AVU-IUP Certificate in Journalism Program: Research Methods in Journalism and Public Opinion Polling]

[accessed 16 May 2011]

In some instance, adults did say that children must play a role in their own protection-primary by listening to and following the advice of their parents and other elders. As some of the children’s groups observed, many adults agreed that parents can only do so much to protect their children. Even if their needs are taken care of, they can still engage in behaviour that is detrimental to their well being, such as sexual relations with sugar daddies. Most children engaged in prostitution did in fact say that their parents had no idea of what they did for a living and they could easily hide their income from them. Thus, the prevailing idea that parents collude with and support their children’s exploitation could be a partial exaggeration, perhaps a convenient form of denial that one’s own children could become a victim. Adult prostitutes generally blamed themselves and the men who exploited them for their predicament. The idea that, as children, parents and authorities should have protected them seemed native to most of them and a denial of their own agency and ability to make a rational decision.

Europeans Involved In Gambian Child Sex Tourism

afrol News (African News Agency), 11 February 2003

[accessed 16 May 2011]

One of the typical ways of contacting the children is establishing a relation to a poor family by "offering financial help for buying food and then offering school sponsorship to children.  The Gambia is among the world's 13 poorest countries and about 70 percent of the population lives in poverty.  This poverty, together with the traditional Gambian openness and a culture of gifts from rich to poor, has made The Gambia vulnerable to child sex tourism.

The Protection Project - The Gambia [DOC]

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

[accessed 2009]

FACTORS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO THE TRAFFICKING INFRASTRUCTURE - An increase in government legal responses in countries such as Thailand has redirected the flow of European pedophiles to places such as The Gambia.  A quarter of the Gambian population lives on tourism, and this fact, combined with the fact that Gambia is a cheap destination, has drawn pedophiles and other sex tourists.

FORMS OF TRAFFICKING - The Department of Social Welfare launched a UNICEF-funded study on sexual abuse and exploitation of children in The Gambia in May 2004. The report concluded that Gambian children face exploitation in the form of sex tourism as well as child pornography and trafficking associated with the tourism industry and that most children involved in prostitution are encouraged to do so by their parents in order to supplement family income.  Moreover, it is common for girls as young as 13 or 14 years of age to get married; in addition, young girls will engage in sexual relations with older men in exchange for gifts, a practice known as the “Sugar Daddy Syndrome.”  Another common traditional practice, known as the “Almudu Syndrome,” involves sending children, usually teenagers, to study Islam and the Qur’an with a knowledgeable adult. In return for their education, the children work for their teachers; however, in some cases children do not receive their promised education and are exploited by their teachers, even becoming sex slaves.

Gambian Child-Sex Tourism Case Rolled Up

afrol News (African News Agency), 28 April 2004

[accessed 16 May 2011]

A Norwegian teacher has been charged with sexual abuse of a 12-year-old boy in The Gambia.  The case is rolled up by Norwegian police in Norway. The Gambia has increasingly earned a reputation of pedophile sex tourism and Gambian police is accused of not taking the growing problem seriously, or even of cooperating with criminal gangs.

Scot accused of child rape in Gambia 'too ill' to attend trial

John Ross, The Scotsman, Edinburgh, 20 July 2004

[accessed 16 May 2011]

A Scot due today to face charges of raping a ten-year-old girl in Gambia is to miss the court hearing on health grounds.  He is believed to be the first person to be charged under the West African country’s new sex-tourism laws. If convicted, he faces up to 14 years in jail.

European paedophiles flock to Gambian 'Smiling Coast'

Alex Duval Smith in Banjul, The Observer, 4 July 2004

[accessed 16 May 2011]

So the youth of the Gambia - 50 per cent of the population is under 18 - look forward to Tuesdays and Fridays when the planes from Gatwick disgorge holidaymakers on the 'Smiling Coast'.  The child prostitutes do not 'consider themselves as children and do not understand that they require special protection because of their age.




ECPAT Global Monitoring Report on the status of action against commercial exploitation of children - GAMBIA [PDF]

Renata Cocarro & Manida Naebklang, ECPAT International, 2007

[accessed 16 May 2011]

The Gambia is affected by several forms of commercial sexual exploitation of children. The occurrence of child sex tourism in The Gambia is well documented, and a UNICEF report from 2003 concluded that “The Gambia is a vulnerable target for … unscrupulous visitors, such as suspected or convicted paedophiles who enter the country in search of a low profile location to commit their crimes against children silently and with impunity.” The significant number of European sex tourists who abuse poor girls and boys in the country has attracted much attention from the local press, and several charges against child sex tourists have been brought before the courts in The Gambia and in Europe. The methods of facilitation and contact points between children and tourists are well known and even discussed publicly by tourism authorities. For instance, at a recent tourism forum, a government representative highlighted that tourists usually gain access to vulnerable children by befriending them, especially those who sell items on the beach and those on the streets (mainly in the Bakau and Crocodile Pool areas). It was also pointed out that the role played by staff in the tourism industry facilitates such contacts.

While girls are the primary target of commercial sexual exploitation, boys have been increasingly victimised in the last few years, especially in the tourism sector.  In research conducted by the Child Protection Alliance (CPA) – the ECPAT group in the country – and Terre des Hommes, interviews with boys involved in prostitution confirmed that the perpetrators are usually foreigners, some of whom travel to The Gambia on package tour holidays for the specific purpose of having sexual relationships with young Gambian men. The research also indicated that a number of ‘bumsters’ - young people who follow tourists and offer to be a guide or a friend - are engaged in commercial sex or act as pimps. Anecdotal evidence and observation of certain locations around the beach and tourism development areas suggests that some of these ‘bumsters’ are below the age of 18. It is important to note that a certain percentage of sex tourists in The Gambia are female, and as such, it is possible that underage boys are also being sexually exploited by women.

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 6 February 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 - According to UNICEF, commercial sexual exploitation of children is on the rise.  The problem is most acute in the sex tourism industry, where young children, especially girls, are coerced by Gambian adults offering gifts and promises of a better or “more Western” life style.  Child trafficking is also a problem. As a transit and destination country, the Gambia is a transfer point where children are trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced domestic and commercial labor. Most children are seized from rural areas and moved to urban centers. Many, ultimately, are trafficked to Europe or South America where they are exploited by the pornography industry.

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 – The Gambia",, [accessed <date>]