Trafficking takes place in every sector irrespective of sex, age or ethnicity. Trafficking of adults and children can be found in domestic work, farm labour, mining, logging, fishing, construction work, begging, forced marriage and forced sexual exploitation. No country is immune from the reaches of the crime of trafficking. The hidden nature of the crime makes the estimation of the number of trafficked persons extremely difficult. Profit from trafficking of children and adults is estimated at $32 billion a year.
The UN Protocol on Trafficking defines trafficking in children (as different from trafficking in persons) as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons for the purposes of exploitation”. It further defines exploitation as including, “at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs”.
Thinking specifically of sex trafficking, the following can be noted:
While all those that are sexually exploited may not have been victims of trafficking, it is still important to note that globally, around 10 million children – mainly girls – are subject to various forms of sexual exploitation worldwide. In Asia alone one million children are noted to being exploited sexually and commercially.
A 2005 study by the International Labour Organization estimates that 43% of all victims of forced labour worldwide are trafficked for sexual exploitation while the 2009 Global Report on Trafficking places the most common form of trafficking as sexual exploitation accounting for 79%. At the same time, it is important to note that with better understanding of the issue we are uncovering growing numbers of trafficked victims in the labour sector.
Interviews with those working in the field indicate that the demand for younger girls is noted to be on the rise in some geographical locations. In part this is due to the misunderstanding about HIV and AIDS transmission but also built in gender discrimination. Virginity is highly prized and the cost of “unpacking” a virgin sought after.
According to Child Wise, an NGO working on the issue, more than 250,000 sex tourists visit Asia each year, with 25 percent coming from the United States, 16 percent from Germany and 13 percent from both Australia and the United Kingdom. This includes those seeking sex with children through child sex tourism, and those specifically targeting pre-pubescent children. This problem is of course not limited to Asia but found world wide. A 2006 report from “NewsfromAfrica” indicates that up to 30,000 children as young as 12 to 14 are being lured by riches and trips abroad only to be sexually exploited. The report noted the Coast Province of Kenya as under threat by sex tourism. While international sex tourism has been widely noted, some studies have also highlighted domestic markets for commercial sexual exploitation of children. Findings from the recent publication from ECPAT notes that the child sex trade is not confined to the developing world but prevalent in all countries of the world.
Various vulnerabilities such as lack of access to education, lack of steady family income or debt in the family, dysfunctionality in the family, social unrest, absence of family care, land alienation, among others contribute to making children susceptible to trafficking. It is exacerbated by numerous other factors. They include lack of appropriate legislative framework, the impunity with which the crime can be committed, corruption of officials, and values of society that many not match with how they are exemplified. Government as well as community complicity in both source and destination countries are also factors that further exacerbate the crime.
To effectively respond, we need to address the problem at all levels, from the grassroots, including individuals, family and communities, to the national and international levels, including national governments as well as the international community. We need to adopt a comprehensive approach that has activities: to prevent the crime from occurring in the first place, to protect those who have already been victimized through rescue, rehabilitation, repatriation and reintegration, and also taking effective action against the perpetrators of the crime through effective prosecution. Effective prevention, protection and prosecution of the crime can only take place in an enabling policy environment supported by a working partnership mechanism (coordinating mechanism) that brings in all key sectors to the table – the social welfare, judiciary, law enforcement, international organizations as well as the civil society among others. Finally, it is important to note that interventions at the source community only address one side of the problem. Unless the demand side of sex trafficking, which is a major contributing factor to the issue, is addressed simultaneously, the market for sex trafficking will continue to thrive.
This briefing note is prepared as a background information by UNICEF.
Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, “ Information for students: Children and Sexual Exploitation”, December 2, 2001, ILO, “A Global Alliance against Forced Labour”, 2005
UNODC, Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, 2009
ECPAT International and the Body Shop International PLC, “Their Protection is in our hands: the State of Global Child Trafficking for Sexual Purposes”, 2009