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Human Trafficking

Prevalence, Abuse & Exploitation of Street Children

In the first decade of the 21st Century                                                   


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 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 aspect(s) of street life are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring how children got there, how they survive, and how some manage to leave the street.  Perhaps your paper could focus on how some street children abuse the public and how they are abused by the public … and how they abuse each other.  Would you like to write about market children? homeless children?  Sexual and labor exploitation? begging? violence? addiction? hunger? neglect? etc.  There is a lot to the subject of Street Children.  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.


True cost of Scotland's cocaine: Street children are the victims

The Scottish Daily Record, May 20 2008

[accessed 1 May 2011]

Colombia's street children are exposed to a distressing daily diet of drugs, prostitution and violence.  Kids as young as six sleep on the streets of Medellin and huddle together in a desperate bid to stay warm.  Largely ignored by locals and known as "disposables", their harrowing stories will chill the blood of every parent.  They are victims - of the killings, poverty and corruption that surrounds the cocaine business.  With so many orphaned by violence, they end up sleeping rough and, with a sad inevitability, soon end up taking drugs and falling into prostitution.


*** 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 - In urban areas, children are found working as domestic servants, and also in the retail and services sectors, and in activities such as street vending and waiting tables.  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.

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]

CHILDREN - Public schooling is provided up to age 18, and is universal, compulsory, and free up to age 15. The National Department of Statistics (DANE) estimated that more than 8 million children between ages 6 and 15 attended school. The government covered the basic costs of primary education, although many families struggled with additional expenses such as matriculation fees after age 15, books, school supplies, and transportation costs that often were prohibitive, particularly for the rural poor.

SECTION 6 WORKER RIGHTS – [d] The legal minimum age for work was inconsistent with completing a basic education, and only 38 percent of working children attended school.

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]

[34] In the light of article 6 and other related provisions of the Convention, the Committee is deeply concerned at the threat posed by the armed conflict to children's lives, including instances of extrajudicial killing, disappearance and torture committed by the police and paramilitary groups; at the multiple instances of "social cleansing" of street children; and at the persistent impunity of the perpetrators of such crimes.

[38] In the light of its recommendation concerning the need to conduct special investigations in cases of gross violations of human rights involving children, the Committee regrets the lack of follow-up information on this issue and reiterates its concern about alleged cases of street children tortured and ill-treated by members of the police and/or paramilitary groups.

[41] The Committee further reiterates its concern that children deprived of their family environment may increasingly travel to the main cities, where they may live on the streets and be particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

[63] The Committee expresses most particular concern for children who work or live in the street in order to survive and who require special attention because of the risks to which they are exposed.

Hope for Colombia's lost children

Rhodri Davies, Al Jazeera, 23 Dec 2008

[accessed 1 May 2011]

Stephania, 12, lives here with her mother, a prostitute. Their home is a former brothel, their bedroom is one quarter of an old bathroom, their bed takes the place of the ripped out bathtub.

LITTLE HELP - There are few people willing to help Stephania and the other children living on and around the streets of Colombia - they are a social group typically stigmatised, marginalised and at times persecuted.

Maryibe Jalero Cardona, a social worker at the centre, says that there are three main dangers for Stephania.   "The constant contact with prostitutes and their world means that daughters can think that it is normal and follow it," she says.   "The room Stephania and her mother live in is rented by the night, so they could easily be chucked out if they don't pay. Stephania may think that she could work as a prostitute if they just need the money for one night's rent."   The second danger is that drug use is widespread in the area - whether cocaine, marijuana or ecstasy.   The third is abuse by any of the significant number of men trawling the streets for prostitutes day and night.

INEQUALITY - It is estimated that about 60,000 children live on Colombia's streets - 37 per cent of them in Bogota.   Furthermore, those displaced are targeted by illegal armed groups operating in cities.   About 600 youngsters have been murdered in the slum areas of Ciudad Boliviar and Altos de Cazuca, on the fringes of Botoga, over the past five years.   About one-quarter of street children are assisted by public institutions or groups commissioned by the state.   But those without assistance typically steal, scavenge or deliver drugs for dealers to survive.

Credit crunch has forced me to snub 200 kids who need aid, admits Colombian charity priest

Paul O'Hare, The Scottish Daily Record, July 14, 2008

[accessed 1 May 2011]

Fr Walters added: "Paradoxically, the fact the violence has diminished means that more kids than ever are coming on to the streets because they are no longer deterred by the fear of being killed.  "The sort of social problems and pressures that were forcing them on to the streets in the first place have not diminished."

Latin American countries call for end to child labor

Xinhua News Agency, Rio De Janeiro, June 13, 2008

[accessed 1 May 2011]

[accessed 27 November 2016]

In Colombia, the coordinator to eradicate child labor, Liliana Obregon, said 1 million children work in the country and that 1.4 million do not have access to education.  Obregon listed Monteria, Ibague, Bucaramanga and Cali as cities with a high rate of child labor, citing the National Department of Statistics.  President of the United Center of Workers of Colombia Carlos Rodriguez said "this is proof of the poverty we have in the country, of their parents' precarious salaries that provoke many children to be obliged to work in the street and even sexually exploited."

Making “Disposables” ‘Angels of the House’

Judi McLeod, Canada Free Press, October 25, 2007

[accessed 1 May 2011]

They come cautiously and unbelieving, many in the most desperate of straits. The facial expressions of the children when they spot the food keep the volunteers wanting to be there to look after the cooking and clean-up, no matter how pressing their outside commitments.  Diana Sanchez could not work in more desolate circumstances, but is mostly too busy to even notice.  Bogota’s hungry children number in the tens of thousands.  The stories of the children’s backgrounds are always sad. No one wants them, for some not even their own families.  At worst, they are `Los desachables’: the disposables; at best, the “gamines”, in Espanola pronounced (gah MEE nays).  Sent out onto the streets to fend for themselves, they forage in the garbage along with the city’s stray dogs.

To be a poor child in Colombia is as complex as the circumstances that made them.  It is to be a runway, a disposable, a child prostitute, or a child abandoned by a family coming into the city from a war zone.  In some circumstances, a mother knowing her brood goes hungry sends one child out to the streets in the hopes that even a few pesos will make the difference at that night’s supper table.  In other even crueler instances, a child is thrown out onto the street because there will be one less mouth to feed.

SOS Children: Street Children in Colombia

SOS Children’s Villages

[accessed 1 May 2011]

In Bogota, the capital of Colombia, the street children are referred to as “throwaway children”.  They form street gangs to protect one another and counter their loneliness. They steal to survive, work as drug runners, take drugs themselves and sniff glue to mitigate the hunger, cold and misery.  In some areas where these small hungry thieves and their criminal activities drove customers away from local businesses, some disadvantaged traders hired “death squads” to clean up the streets, and during the 1990s thousands of street children were murdered.

"Social Cleansing" Of Children

Human Rights Watch Children's Rights Project, “Generation Under Fire - Children and Violence in Colombia”, November 1994 -- Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 94-79742,  ISBN: 1-56432-144-4

[accessed 1 May 2011]

Frankie has been on the street since he was eight years old.  He has survived three "social cleansing" attempts on his life.

Let the Children LiveThe Gamines


[accessed 1 May 2011]

[see left margin: the gamines]

They are called 'the disposable ones', the children who live - and sometimes die - in the streets and the rubbish dumps of the cities of Colombia in South America. These 'gamines' range from six-year-olds to teenagers, and they are unloved, unwanted, beaten, robbed, abused, raped and murdered.

Human Rights Watch Colombia Report

Human Rights Watch Colombia Report, November 1994

[accessed 1 May 2011]

Street children and other youths in Colombia face an extraordinary level of danger from both uniformed members of the security forces and police-tolerated private vigilantes, according to "Generation Under Fire: Children and Violence in Colombia," released today by Human Rights Watch.  A significant portion of the murders of Colombian children are carried out by agents of the state; police have reportedly taken part in hundreds of killings of children since 1980, including the so- called "social cleansing" murders of street children. Still other murders of children are committed by private groups whose members are not held accountable for the killings.

Colombia Reality Check: Politics

Marc Cooper, Spin, November 1993

[accessed 1 May 2011]

In Bogota, Colombia, on the mean streets of downtown, night is coming and there's an air of crisis inside the spartan, storefront headquarters of RENACER, a nonprofit social agency that serves this city's tens of thousands of teenage prostitutes. About a half-dozen young girls, and an equal number of boys--most of them self-confessed petty robbers--crowd inside the agency's one-room meeting space, with its desk, folding chairs, and hand- lettered posters warning of the dangers of AIDS, drugs, and glue- sniffing. The three volunteer social workers--all women--are rifling through notes, making calls on their single black phone, scrambling to find temporary shelter for these kids.

Youth Ambassadors for Peace – Colombia

Youth Ambassadors for Peace

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

[accessed 1 May 2011]

Children are the victims of "disappearances" and massacres and are currently dying at a rate of 12 each day as a direct result of violence. Children are forced to live as refugees abroad or are displaced within their own country, and many take to the streets as a means of survival. These children then confront the dangers of hunger, harassment, sexual abuse and forced prostitution, death or even murder. With the current atmosphere of violence and poverty, the majority of children in Colombia go without an education.

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, "Street Children - Colombia",, [accessed <date>]