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The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

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

Republic of Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is an extremely poor nation with tremendous inequality in income distribution. While it possesses substantial mineral, agricultural, and fishery resources, its physical and social infrastructure is not well developed, and serious social disorders continue to hamper economic development. Nearly half of the working-age population engages in subsistence agriculture. Manufacturing consists mainly of the processing of raw materials and of light manufacturing for the domestic market. Alluvial diamond mining remains the major source of hard currency earnings accounting for nearly half of Sierra Leone's exports.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Description: SierraLeone

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


Street Children of Sierra Leone Lead Brutal, Dangerous Life

Gabi Menezes, Voice of America VOA News, Makeni Sierra Leone, 27 May 2005

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 18 July 2011]

A decade of conflict has made poverty in Sierra Leone so bad that many families cannot afford to take care of their children. Over 1,500 children live on the streets in Freetown alone, making a living doing odd jobs. They are the children most in danger of violence and sexual abuse.

At a truck park in the eastern part of the capital, many children come to sleep in the empty shells of cars. Prostitutes and drug addicts also come there.

Eight-year-old Hannah Masany was found in the parking lot. She had been out on the streets since she was six. Hannah's father was killed during the war, and her mother could not afford to look after her.  Hannah said that she was not afraid on the streets, as older street children helped take care of her. But many girls as young as Hannah will have sex with men in order to earn enough money to eat.  "People come along -- it is a kind of enterprise which has just developed recently, it's a very quick way of getting money," says ACC Senior Councilor John B. Koroma.


*** ARCHIVES ***

ECPAT Regional Overview: The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Africa [PDF]

ECPAT International, November 2014

[accessed 7 September 2020]

Maps sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism (SECTT), online child sexual exploitation (OCSE), trafficking of children for sexual purposes, sexual exploitation of children through prostitution, and child early and forced marriage (CEFM). Other topics include gender inequality, armed conflicts, natural disasters, migration, and HIV/AIDS.

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 7 September 2020]

SEXUAL EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN - The minimum age of consensual sex is 18. Although the law criminalizes the sexual exploitation of children, sale of children, child trafficking, and child pornography, enforcement remained a challenge and conviction numbers remained low. In many cases of sexual assault of children, parents accepted payment instead of taking the perpetrator to court due to difficulties dealing with the justice system, fear of public shame, and economic hardship.

Responding to the high incidence of sexual and gender-based violence and other problems affecting women, in December 2018, First Lady Fatima Bio launched a broad initiative entitled, Hands Off Our Girls, focused on child marriage, teenage pregnancy, sexual-based violence, and child trafficking and prostitution. President Bio called on the country to stop all forms of discrimination against women and to restore the pride and dignity of women and girls. In February President Bio proclaimed in an emergency decree that the rape of a minor would result in a life sentence. The president’s decree expired in June when a bill to amend the Sexual Offences Act, 2012, was introduced in parliament as a direct result of the proclamation. On September 19, parliament passed the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act, 2019, that increased the maximum penalty for rape and sexual penetration of a minor from 15-years’ to life imprisonment. The law also increased the minimum sentence for rape of a minor to 15 years in prison and made provisions for the introduction of a new “aggravated sexual assault” offense.

According to a UNICEF case study in 2017, the FSU estimated more than 1,000 children experience sexual violence each year.

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 22 December 2010]

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - Child prostitution is an increasing problem. Children have been trafficked to Europe where they were exploited through fictitious adoption schemes. Internally, children continue to be trafficked from rural areas to Freetown and to diamond mining areas for purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor

Concluding Observations Of The Committee On The Rights Of The Child (CRC)

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 28 January 2000

[accessed 22 December 2010]

[85] The Committee is concerned that provisions in national domestic legislation providing protection to children from sexual exploitation and abuse only offer such protection to children up to the age of 14.

[87] The Committee expresses its deep concern with regard to the many incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse of children, particularly in the context of the conscription or abduction of children by armed persons and in the context of attacks on civilian populations by armed persons, and particularly with regard to girls. The Committee is also concerned at reports of commercial sexual exploitation and of widespread sexual abuse of girls within the family, within internally displaced person camps and within communities.

ECPAT:  Country Report - Sierra Leone

ECPAT International

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

[accessed 18 July 2011]

As a result of the civil war and the massive displacement of the population in the urban areas, particularly Freetown, prostitution is reported to be rife particularly amongst teenage girls. Cut off from their roots and family and with no one to take care of them in Freetown, the young girls turn to prostitution as the only means of survival.

ECPAT:  CSEC in West Africa

ECPAT International Newsletters, Issue No : 34  1/March/2001

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

[accessed 18 July 2011]

PERPETRATORS - The majority of perpetrators are rich local nationals like civil servants, politicians and businessmen. Other perpetrators are foreign tourists and, in countries affected by armed conflict, military personnel. As a result of the war in Sierra Leone, the bulk of the perpetrators are military personnel either on the government or rebel side, UN peacekeepers and foreign expatriates working for humanitarian agencies in the country.

UN Special Envoy for Children and Armed Conflict applauds progress

United Nations Press Release, Freetown, 28 February 2003

[accessed 18 July 2011]

At the conclusion of a week-long visit to Sierra Leone (22-28 February), Under-Secretary-General Olara A. Otunnu, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, has called upon the international community to continue to support the country in the peace-building period so that the impressive gains made so far in the rehabilitation and protection of war-affected children can be strengthened and sustained.

Efforts must also be undertaken, the Special Representative said, to expand programs benefiting children and improve social services in the rural areas to counter the abject poverty afflicting families which in turn causes children to work in the streets, to beg or to prostitute themselves. And with children all over the country expressing their desire to attend school, Mr. Otunnu said, a major effort is needed by Government and international partners to improve on low enrolment rates and conditions in schools.

News Archives (

News Archives, June 2003

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

[accessed 18 July 2011]

[Scroll down to 11 June]

The Sierra Leone government does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking, but the authorities are "making significant efforts to do so despite severe resource constraints," the U.S. State Department said on Wednesday. In its 2003 report on human trafficking, the State Department described Sierra Leone as "a source country for trafficked persons." During the country's decade-long civil war, the report noted, tens of thousands of men, women and children were abducted as forced laborers, combatants, and sex slaves. But despite the end of the conflict in January 2002, few of the girls believed to have been taken as sex slaves have been accounted for. Moreover, the report said, small groups of persons are likely still being held for forced labor or sexual servitude. Children are being trafficked to Liberia as forced conscripts and to Europe under false adoption schemes, and child prostitution is also said to be on the rise.

Internationally Recognized Core Labor Standards In Sierra Leone [PDF]

International Confederation Of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), Report For The Wto General Council Review Of The Trade Policies Of Sierra Leone, (Geneva, 9 and 11 February 2005)

[accessed 18 July 2011]

This report assesses the observance of internationally recognized core labor standards in Sierra Leone. Altogether Sierra Leone has ratified six of the eight core ILO labor Conventions, it has not ratified the ILO core Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labor or the Convention on Minimum Age. Child labor is widespread in Sierra Leone, both in rural and in urban areas, and school attendance is low; child labor includes the worst forms of child labor such as child prostitution, mining, domestic work and begging.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR, Refugee Children: Guidelines on Protection and Care

Human Rights Watch Report, Forgotten Children of War  -  Sierra Leonean Refugee Children in Guinea, 1999

[accessed 18 July 2011]

Human Rights Watch also identified a serious problem of child prostitution in the camps, where girls as young as twelve said that they feel compelled to "play sex for money" in order to support themselves and, in some cases, their families. As with the problem of sexual violence, very little has been done by UNHCR to understand the problem of child prostitution in the camps in Guinea or to prevent it.

MANO RIVER UNION: Reports that child refugees sexually exploited shock Annan

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Abidjan, 27 February 2002

[accessed 13 March 2015]

Refugee children in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have been subjected to sexual abuse and exploitation, reportedly by employees of national and international NGOs, UNHCR and other UN bodies, fellow refugees, security forces of host countries and other persons, according to a joint assessment by UNHCR and Save the Children-UK. The exchange of sex for money or gifts appeared widespread. The victims were mostly girls aged 13 to 18, while the most vulnerable group comprised orphans and children separated from one or both parents. The perpetrators "are often men in positions of relative power and influence who either control access to goods and services or who have wealth and/or income".

Sexual Exploitation of Refugees in West Africa

Save The Children Fund & United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 2002

[accessed 18 July 2011]

[accessed 15 November 2016]

This assessment was initiated by UNHCR and Save the Children-UK (SC-UK) due to growing concerns, based on their field experience, about the nature and extent of sexual violence and exploitation of refugee children and other children of concern to UNHCR 1 in the countries of the Mano River Sub Region 2 in West Africa.

SIERRA LEONE: Agencies act on issues of sexual abuse

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN In-Depth, Abidjan, 6 June 2002

[accessed 13 March 2015]

In February, UNHCR and Save the Children-UK reported that refugee children in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone were subjected to sexual abuse and exploitation, reportedly by employees of the United Nations, national and international NGOs, local security forces and a wide range of other individuals.

The UNHCR/SCF report said the exchange of sex for money or gifts appeared widespread. The victims were mostly girls aged 13 to 18, while the most vulnerable group comprised orphans and children separated from one or both parents. The perpetrators "are often men in positions of relative power and influence who either control access to goods and services or who have wealth and/or income," the report said.




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 11 February 2020]

CHILDREN - Child prostitution was a problem.  To address the issue of child prostitution in the capital, the Freetown City Council discussed the introduction of a regulation that would bar minors from nightclubs, a common venue for commercial sex transactions, but by year's end the city council had taken no action to pass such a regulation.

SECTION 6 WORKER RIGHTS – [d] Many girls, particularly those displaced from their homes and with few resources, resorted to prostitution as a means to support themselves.

The international NGO World Vision continued to help child prostitutes (girls between the ages of 14 and 20) by paying their school fees, providing them with educational materials, and caring for girl mothers. Out of 304 girls assisted, 86 were full-time sex workers.

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