Commercial sexual exploitation of children
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Commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) is a commercial transaction that involves the sexual exploitation of a child, such as the prostitution of children and child pornography. CSEC may involve coercion and violence against children and amount to forced labour and a form of contemporary slavery as well as offering the sexual services of children for compensation, financial or otherwise.
A declaration of the World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, held in Stockholm in 1996, defined CSEC as:
- ‘sexual abuse by the adult and remuneration in cash or kind to the child or a third person or persons. The child is treated as a sexual object and as a commercial object.’
CSEC includes child sex tourism and other forms of transactional sex where a child engages in sexual activities to have key needs fulfilled, such as food, shelter or access to education. It includes forms of transactional sex where the sexual abuse of children is not stopped or reported by household members, due to benefits derived by the household from the perpetrator. CSEC also potentially includes arranged marriages involving children under the age of consent, where the child has not freely consented to marriage and where the child is sexually abused.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) states that roughly one out of every five girls and one out of every ten boys will be sexually exploited or abused before they become of age. UNICEF says that child sexual exploitation is “one of the gravest infringements of rights that a child can endure.”
- 1 Trends
- 2 Causes and dangers
- 3 How trafficking works
- 4 Prevalence
- 5 Non-government organizations
- 6 Government involvement
- 7 Prevention through education
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Child pornography is prevalent on the international, national, regional, and local levels. The differences of production, distribution, producers, evasion techniques, and status are explained in figure one. Child pornography is a multibillion-dollar enterprise that includes photographs, books, audiotapes, videos and more. These images depict children performing sexual acts with other children, adults, and other objects. The children are subjected to exploitation, rape, pedophilia, and in extreme cases, murder. Pornography is often used as a gateway into the sex trade industry. Many pimps force children into pornography as a way of conditioning them to believe that what they are doing is acceptable. The pimps may then use the pornography to blackmail the child and extort money from clients.
|Production Format||State-of-art technology in audiovisual equipment, development, and mass reproduction process.||Essentially the same as international.||Private developing studios and labs; lower quality material.||Lowest quality of all the markets; relies on retail level technology (instant cameras. Photostats). Direct purchase or exchange, mail.|
|Distribution Methods||Mail, courier, direct sale.||Adult bookstores, mail (commercial and Postal Service), direct sale.||Mail (commercial, U.S.), direct purchase or exchange, adult bookstores.||Direct purchase or exchange, mail.|
|Producers||Syndicated sex rings, entrepreneurs, and freelance photographers.||Organized crime and freelance pornographers.||Primarily freelance pornographers, with some work hired out on contractual basis by local pimps or pedophiles.||Community or neighborhood pedophiles, sex rings, and pimps.|
|Evasion Techniques||Mobile production and development sites, false identities, multiple disguised mailings of merchandise.||Use of middleman to arrange routine purchases, parental release form, and mobile production and developmental sites.||Transient identities and locations of pornographers, rapid turnover in children used as models, and parental release forms.||Victims coerced or blackmailed into silence; offender’s mobility and good reputation often insulate him from suspicion.|
|Status||Still available, with emphasis on use of Third World youths as models; periodic inroads into traffic by foreign police and U.S. federal law enforcement agencies; reactive nature of police investigations precludes permanent abolition of production and distribution||Extremely resilient, despite harsh federal laws occasional disruption of the flow of merchandise. Resold in neighboring countries and exported to Asia, Europe, and Africa.||Extremely difficult to intercept on proactive basis. Pimps and pornographers use juvenile hustlers and molested children as subjects. May later emerge in foreign publications. Parental consent binds guilty parties to secrecy; increasing emphasis on suggestive materials.||Pornography made at the local level is the mainstay of the pedophilic subculture; typically discovered during police search or accidentally via postal investigations.|
Tourism and trafficking
Some people travel to engage in child sex tourism. Sex tourism and sex trafficking both generate revenue for a country. “The Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand is quoted as asking provincial governors ‘to consider the jobs that will be created .’” This encouragement from the government explains why some countries have low fines for engaging in the sex trade. Many travel agencies offer information and guides on exotic entertainment further encouraging men to travel for sexual purposes. Sex tourists bring money to underdeveloped economies that rely on the exploitation of their women and children for revenue.
Child trafficking and CSEC sometimes overlap. On the one hand, children who are trafficked are often trafficked for the purposes of CSEC. However, not all trafficked children are trafficked for these purposes. Further, even if some of the children trafficked for other forms of work are subsequently sexually abused at work, this does not necessarily constitute CSEC. On the other hand, according to the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, the definition of Severe Forms of Trafficking in Persons includes any commercial sex act performed by a person under the age of 18. This means that any minor who is commercially sexually exploited is defined as a trafficking victim, whether or not movement has taken place. CSEC is also part of, but distinct from, child abuse, or even child sexual abuse. Child rape, for example, will not usually constitute CSEC. Neither will domestic violence.
Prostitution of children under the age of 18 years, child pornography and the (often related) sale and trafficking of children are often considered to be crimes of violence against children. They are considered to be forms of economic exploitation akin to forced labour or slavery. Such children often suffer irreparable damage to their physical and mental health. They face early pregnancy and risk sexually transmitted diseases, particularly HIV. They are often inadequately protected by the law and may be treated as criminals.
Prostitution is known as one of the youngest professions. Nearly eighty percent of adult prostitutes entered the industry between eleven and fourteen (Cedeno, 2012, p. 157). According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, minors engaged in commercial sex acts are deemed victims of human trafficking (Marcus et al. 2014, p. 227).
Causes and dangers
The supply and demand for children in the sex trade industry is greatly influenced by the economic structure of a country. Kevin Bales says the increase of children sold into prostitution reflects the industrial transformation the country has experienced in the last fifty years. Young girls in Thailand are commonly from northern areas. Because of the harshness of the land and a family’s dependency on a good harvest many families see their daughters as commodities.
On the macro-level of causes for child sexual exploitation is the globalization of the consumer market and the influx of new goods and services that encourage new forms of consumerism. The amount of money offered to parents for their children is often too good to refuse because they are living at or below the poverty level. The children are turned over to the buyer without any knowledge of what they were sold into.
Other macro-level influences include the expansion of construction sites and military bases in developing countries. These installations attract those who wish to sexually exploit children for large sums of money. The men who participate in the sexual exploitation of children at these installations are most often from developed countries and have no regard for the children.
Families who sell their daughters to brothels tend to repeat the pattern with their younger daughters. The younger daughters, however, are more willing to go. This is because their older sisters tell them stories of their extravagant times in the city. The girls admire their sister’s western clothes and money. The younger girls then enter into prostitution with little notion of what they are getting themselves into.
Dangers and consequences
Whether the children be in pornography, brothels, or trafficked they are all at risk for sexually transmitted infections, physical violence, and psychological deterioration. Research has shown that “fifty to ninety percent of children in brothels in Southeast Asia are infected with HIV.” In many cases when children are brought into the sex trade industry they are beaten and raped until they are so broken they no longer try to escape. Physical hazards can also include infertility, cervical cancer, assault, and sometimes murder. Pregnancy is also a physical risk factor for many children. Much like if they are found to have HIV or AIDS the girls are thrown out of the brothels with nowhere to go. Many of the children “break the conscious link between mind and body” in order to function in these situations (Bales 221). By doing so, many children begin to think they are nothing more than whores and some develop suicidal thoughts. Other psychological risk factors include sleep and eating disorders, gender-disturbed sexual identity, hysteria, and even homicidal rage.
Outside physical and psychological dangers lies fear of the law. Many girls and women are illegally trafficked across borders. If they manage to escape from the brothel or pimp, the women and children quickly come to the attention of the authorities. Because they do not have proper documentation they are detained by the authorities. If they are held in local jails, the women and children often suffer further abuse and exploitation by the police.
How trafficking works
Many people are involved in the act of child sexual exploitation. It takes quite a few people to run a brothel and procure the children. Four parties are identified as being involved in a transaction in the child sex market: the perpetrator, the vendor, the facilitator, and the child. Perpetrators are those who partake in sex tourism and trafficking. The perpetrators are most often men who try to “rationalize their sexual involvement with children." The vendors are the procurers and pimps of the children. Under their reign profit is maximized and trafficking itself is made possible. The facilitators are those who allow for child sex trafficking to occur. Parents who sell their daughters to vendors fall into this category. The child is the most essential figure in this process. The term child, however, poses problems. Due to varying definitions across the globe it is difficult to differentiate between sexual abuse of a child and child prostitution. Also, every country and culture has its own way of determining when a child is no longer considered a minor.
While it is impossible to know the true extent of the problem, given its illegal nature, International Labour Organization (ILO) global child labour figures for the year 2003 estimate that there are as many as 1.8 million children exploited in prostitution or pornography worldwide.
The Rapid Assessment survey, developed by the ILO's International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) and UNICEF, relies on interviews and other, mainly qualitative, techniques, to provide a picture of a specific activity in a limited geographic area. It is a highly useful tool for collecting information on the worst forms of child labour, like CSEC, that is difficult to capture with standard quantitative surveys.
General knowledge offered to a child can decrease the likelihood of children being exploited into prostitution or pornography. A national campaign in Thailand provided “9 years of basic education, ... awareness-raising activities to change attitudes about child prostitution, and a surveillance system to prevent children from being coerced into prostitution.”
Some 84% of girls in prostitution interviewed in Tanzania reported having been battered, raped or tortured by police officers and sungu sungu (local community guards). At least 60% had no permanent place to live. Some of these girls started out as child domestic workers.
In El Salvador, one-third of the sexually exploited children between 14 and 17 years of age are boys. The median age for entering into prostitution among all children interviewed was 13 years. They worked on average five days per week, although nearly 10% reported that they worked seven days a week.
In 2001, the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work released a study on CSEC conducted in 17 cities across the United States. While they did not interview any of the adolescent subjects of the inquiry, they estimated through secondary response that as many as 300,000 American youth may be at risk of commercial sexual exploitation at any time. However, the actual number of children involved in prostitution is likely to be much smaller: over 10 years only 827 cases a year had been reported to police departments. The Center for Court Innovation in New York City had used Respondent Driven Sampling (RDS), Social Network Analysis, capture/recapture, and Markov based probability estimates in 2008 to generate a prevalence estimate for New York City that suggested far fewer commercially sexually exploited children than the 300,000 and far more than the 827 suggested by these two most widely read sources.
Especially vulnerable are homeless and runaways. The National Runaway Switchboard said in 2009 that one-third of runaway youths in America will be lured into prostitution within 48 hours on the streets. This view of adolescent prostitution in the United States as primarily driven by pimp-exploiters and other "sex traffickers" was challenged by SNRG-NYC in their 2008 New York City study which interviewed over 300 under-age prostitutes and found that only 10% reported having pimps. A 2012 study done in Atlantic City, New Jersey, by the same group incorporated an extended qualitative ethnographic component that looked specifically at the relationship between pimps and adolescents engaged with street based sex markets. This study found the percentage of adolescents who had pimps to be only 14% and that those relationships were typically far more complex, mutual, and companionate than has been reported by social service providers, not-for-profits, and much of the news media.
The New York State Office of Children and Family Services estimated in 2007 that New York City is home to more than 2,000 sexually exploited children under 18. At least 85 percent of these youths statewide have had some contact with the child welfare system, mostly through abuse or neglect proceedings. In New York City, 75 percent have been in foster care. Mishi Faruqee, who is in charge of juvenile justice issues for the Correctional Association of New York, questioned the reliability of the estimate. “We believe that number is really an undercount." This is confirmed by SNRG-NYC's New York City population estimate of 2008 which was 3,946. The SNRG-NYC New York City study found that out of 249 underage prostitutes (48% female and 45% male) who constituted the final statistical sample, the average age of entry into the market was 15.29.
In 2013, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children documented over 10,000 reports of child sex trafficking. They say that this only represents a "tiny percentage" of the actual child sex trafficking. They say that websites such as Backpage.com encourage dissemination of child sex trafficking content on its website. On average, Backpage.com sends NCMEC 300 ads a month that it believes involves children, which the NCMEC calls inadequate.
In Bangladesh, child prostitutes are known to take the drug Oradexon, an over-the-counter steroid, usually used by farmers to fatten cattle, to make child prostitutes look larger and older. Charities say that 90% of prostitutes in the country’s legalized brothels use the drug. According to social activists, the steroid can cause diabetes, high blood pressure and is highly addictive.
UNICEF estimates that there are 60,000 child prostitutes in the Philippines and many of the 200 brothels in the notorious Angeles City offer children for sex.
In Vietnam, family poverty, low family education and family dysfunction were found to be primary causes for CSEC. Sixteen per cent of the children interviewed were illiterate, 38% had only primary-level schooling. Sixty-six per cent said that tuition and school fees were beyond the means of their families.
ECPAT stands for end child prostitution and trafficking. As a non-government organization ECPAT is dedicated to finding ways to save children who are sexually exploited. Their vision is of a world free of child sexual exploitation. One of their efforts includes the First World Congress against the Sexual Exploitation of Children hosted by the Swedish government. The Congress came up with an Agenda for Action which was framed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
ECPAT has also helped fund other non-government organizations to establish prevention programs in Thailand and other countries across the globe. On top of funding, ECPAT also produces research reports on the state of child sexual exploitation.
ECPAT offers a multitude of involvement opportunities. The cooperation encourages people across the globe to donate and fundraise with them in order to increase the funds used to rescue children and further research efforts. Their page also provides a link to report the commercial sexual exploitation of children. If you plan on travelling they encourage travelers to book with companies who have signed the “Code of Conduct for the protection of children from sexual exploitation in travel and tourism.” Certain businesses and organizations may be eligible to become members of ECPAT. By doing so, organizations can further their efforts to aid against the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Most importantly ECPAT encourages everyone to stay informed about the global issue of child sexual exploitation.
World Vision is another non-government organization with many areas of impact. World Vision works to address the causes of why child protection is necessary. World Vision educates children who are prime targets to be trafficked. They inform them of the schemes used to lure them into slavery and what trafficking entails. This education empowers the children to have access to education, food, and shelter. World Vision offers many opportunities for citizens to get involved. Their opportunities include sponsoring a child, raising awareness to lawmakers, volunteering at World Vision events, and many more.
Unfortunately, many government officials turn a blind eye to child sexual exploitation and just as many encourage it. Japan and the United States are the most prolific in terms of their exploitation of children. “During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military developed ‘recreation and rest centers,’ a type of government –subsidized tourist trade.” Reports note that these rest and recreation centers were closely associated with prostitutes and brothels. “It has been alleged that military personnel figure at a disproportionately high rate in the pedophile exchange lists confiscated by some police departments.”
Due to issues such as those by the U.S. military, the United Nations has taken matters into its own hands. The Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography establishes a responsibility of governments to protect children from sexual exploitation. The Protocol requires countries to adopt protective measures while stressing the importance of prevention in the globalizing world. Along with the help of UNICEF, a handbook for the Protocol was created. It states that “the reporting and monitoring processes of the Protocol should promote a global vision of child protection.” The same committee that put Protocol into action has put more effort into acquiring more accurate data on child sexual exploitation. The 2012 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons shows that with the Protocol in place countries without a child sexual exploitation offense have nearly halved. At the regional level criminal convictions of trafficking offenses have increased.
On top of the Protocol a Global Plan of Action has been instated. This plan involves strengthening the abilities of law enforcement to identify victims of trafficking, enhance investigations of alleged cases, and prosecute and punish the many corrupt officials who partake in sex trafficking and tourism.
In 1989 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 34 states that “State Parties undertake to protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. For these purposes, state parties shall in particular take all appropriate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent: a) The inducement or coercion of children to engage in any unlawful sexual activity; b) The exploitative use of children in prostitution or other unlawful sexual practices; c) The exploitative use of children in pornographic performance and materials.”
Prevention through education
One of the many ways to aid in the prevention of child sexual exploitation is through education. World Vision  is one of the leaders in educating young girls on the dangers of trafficking and educating them on what they would really be getting themselves into. Other efforts involve educating police personnel. The Family Planning Association of Nepal hosted a training session for the local police on how to handle a trafficking situation and how to identify women and children in sexual exploitative situations. Public education is also a must. Because child sexual exploitation is driven by demand it is “crucial to raise the perceptions of consumers about the harm that is caused.” It has been suggested that public shutdowns of those who operate sex tours could influence deterrence. Other efforts include simply educating potential victims about the tactics recruiters often use. The previously mentioned Protocol requires members to provide preventative measures against child sexual exploitation; among these preventative measures is educating the public, especially families, on the dangers of sex tourism and trafficking.
- Child sexual abuse
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
- International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour
- Mongolian Gender Equality Center
- Towards the Elimination of the worst forms of Child Labour
- Trafficking in human beings
- Trafficking of children
Relevant ILO Conventions and Recommendations
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