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The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

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

Islamic Republic of Mauritania

Half the population still depends on agriculture and livestock for a livelihood, even though many of the nomads and subsistence farmers were forced into the cities by recurrent droughts in the 1970s and 1980s. Mauritania has extensive deposits of iron ore, which account for nearly 40% of total exports. The nation's coastal waters are among the richest fishing areas in the world, but overexploitation by foreigners threatens this key source of revenue. The country's first deepwater port opened near Nouakchott in 1986.

The Government continues to emphasize reduction of poverty, improvement of health and education, and privatization of the economy.  [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 Mauritania.  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.


Strengthening the Protection of Children through the Law against Human Trafficking

Dr Haimoud Ramdan, Charge d’Affaires, Department of Justice, Mauritania, ECPAT International Newsletters, Issue 45, October 1, 2003

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 19 June 2011]

The commercial sexual exploitation of children for commercial purposes has developed gradually in Mauritania, in particular through the prostitution of children by relatively well-organized internal networks, the trafficking of children for sexual purposes, brothels and child sex tourism. These practices, although still in an embryonic state, nevertheless constitute a danger in the future if corrective measures are not taken.


*** ARCHIVES ***

ECPAT Country Monitoring Report [PDF]

ECPAT International, 2007

[accessed 3 September 2020]

Desk review of existing information on the sexual exploitation of children (SEC) in Mauritania. 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 3 September 2020]

SEXUAL EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN - The law prohibits sexual relations with a child younger than 18, with penalties of six months to two years in prison and a 12,000- to 18,000-ouguiya ($333 to $500) fine. Possession of child pornography is illegal, with penalties of two months to one year in prison and a fine of 16,000 to 30,000 ouguiyas ($444 to $833). Commercial sexual exploitation of children is illegal, and conviction carries penalties of five to 10 years in prison and a fine of 500,000 to one million ouguiyas ($13,890 to $27,780). NGOs asserted the laws were not properly enforced.

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 3 September 2020]

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

[page 775]

Children in Mauritania, especially from the Haratine ethnic minority, continue to be exploited as slaves and endure slave-like practices, particularly in rural and remote areas of the country. Some children are born into slavery; others are born free but remain in a dependent status and are forced to work with their parents for their former masters in exchange for food, money, and lodging. (4,6,8,9,19-22) Child slaves herd animals, such as cattle and goats; perform domestic labor; and are often sexually exploited. (4,6,15,16,23)

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

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

[accessed 20 February 2011]

[53] The Committee encourages the State party to ratify the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

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 – MAURITANIA – The subject of commercial sexual exploitation of children is still taboo in Mauritania, which complicates the work on sensitizing, informing and educating the public. However, some NGOs have shown a genuine commitment to children’s rights and in their projects they have included work with sexually abused children. The Association Nationale Pour l’Appui à l’Initiative Féminine et la Protection Infantile et Environnementale (ANAIF-PIE) has created and is coordinating a network “Women and Development in Mauritania” consisting of more than 30 NGOs led by women. Its major objective is to communicate on subjects that have traditionally been regarded as social and cultural taboos such as sexuality and in particular sexuality that is related to children.

A Situational Analysis of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Mauritania [PDF]

Maye Mint Haidy, ECPAT International, March 2003

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

[accessed 19 June 2011]

[2.1.1] PROSTITUTION - Prostitution is essentially an urban phenomenon in Mauritania. The commercial sexual exploitation of children is both a consequence and a cause of other social ills, among which are extreme poverty (91.9% of those surveyed in this study cited poverty as the main reason they turned to prostitution), divorce, which is very frequent (children are dependent on their mothers for support, with the father contributing nothing), and children who have lost their father (households headed by women total 38%). According to public opinion, girls from the countryside are brought by their parents or by acquaintances to the city to look for work. Some of them are then drawn to the delinquent urban lifestyle and end up living in houses where prostitution is practiced. There they are well cared for so that they can attract clientele, and a small amount of money is often sent to their parents back in the village. These parents often remain ignorant of their daughters’ real situation.

ECPAT Directory: Middle East & North Africa - ANAIF-PIE

ECPAT International

[accessed 19 June 2011]

Association Nationale pour l’Appui à l’Initiative Féminine la Protection Infantile et Environnementale (ANAIF-PIE) was created in 1995 by a group of women who recognised the need to promote gender equity in Mauritania and ensure that children grow up in a safe environment. The organisation now has 200 members and aims to provide support for women’s projects in the development sector and to protect and promote children’s rights. The group’s work has included: carrying out campaigns on child protection and care, focusing on children with HIV/AIDS, child victims of sexual exploitation and children suffering from malnutrition; raising awareness on various forms of child exploitation, including sexual exploitation and child labour, and on women and children suffering from HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections; developing an awareness-raising campaign against CSEC in Atar in collaboration with UNICEF and the Ministry of Tourism; and setting up a database and developing a strategy to promote gender equality. It has financed several cooperatives for female heads of households and has supported research on the commercial sexual exploitation of children as well as the impact of migration on the economic status of women.




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

ECPAT International, 2007

[accessed 19 June 2011]

Commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) appears to be a relatively recent phenomenon in Mauritania. While it has existed in the form of forced child marriages for some time, child prostitution, child sex tourism and trafficking in children for sexual purposes are becoming more common, (especially the prostitution of children by relatively well-organised internal networks). However, counteraction has been hindered by a number of factors, not least the fact that the subject is taboo in Mauritania and usually treated under the broader issue of “violence against children”, instead of being addressed in all its particularities and complexity. The population of Mauritania is 100 per cent practicing Muslim, and although the practice of prostitution is strictly forbidden in Islam, the commercial sexual exploitation of children takes place very secretly and is heavily frowned upon. Decision makers, legislators, elected officials, village chiefs and families know little about or are completely unaware of the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

Child prostitution in Mauritania is essentially an urban phenomenon, found primarily in capitals and large cities, where foreign and local tourists and expatriates are common. It has been reported that parents often send girls from the countryside to larger cities to find work and some of them end up living in houses where prostitution is practiced. The parents receive small amounts of money from their children and often remain ignorant as to its exact source.

A number of studies focusing on street children found that many are being exploited through prostitution, including boys. According to a study by Father François Lefort, street children are targeted by unscrupulous adults, often foreigners, who exploit them either as pimps or directly. In a 2003 report, he attested to having treated 103 children abused by seven westerners. He also reported that, out of 400 children living without their families in the streets of Nouakchott (the capital city), almost 10 per cent earn their living through prostitution.

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 20 February 2011]

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

CHILD LABOR LAWS AND ENFORCEMENT - The Criminal Code establishes strict penalties for engaging in prostitution or procuring prostitutes, ranging from fines to imprisonment for 2 to 5 years for cases involving minors. The Law Against Human Trafficking expands the scope of trafficking for cases involving children. Fines for violation of the law include 5 to 10 years of forced labor and a fine. In addition, the Criminal Code sets a penalty of 5 to 10 years’ imprisonment for the use of fraud or violence to abduct minors.

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