Child prostitution: the curse affecting every continent
It is estimated that there are more than three million minors who feed prostitution networks. This increasingly lucrative phenomenon is becoming evermore widespread.
Definition of Child Prostitution
Child prostitution designates the use of children for sexual activities in exchange for remuneration or another form of retribution (gifts, food, clothes, etc). This activity is included under the umbrella term of sexual exploitation.
These children work on the streets or in establishments such as brothels, clubs, massage parlours, bars, hotels, or restaurants.
Both boys as well as girls are driven to prostitution. For example, in Pakistan, more than 95% of truckers engage in sexual activities with young boys. This practice is justified by the face that these drivers live, on average, more than 21 days away from home and see these activities as the principal distraction during their off time.
Why choose children instead of adults?
It is easier to abuse a child than an adult.
Sexual exploiters utilise the docility of children because they are less able to defend themselves. This deviant attitude is often caused by the feeling of sexual and economic power, by the desire for new experiences, or by the feeling of impunity related to anonymity.
Moreover, in certain cultures, myths and prejudices often justify the search for sexual relations with children. In Asia for example, some men are persuaded that the fact of having sexual relations with very young virgin girls prevents them from contracting HIV/AIDS, as well as curing this illness. Most men believe also that having sexual relations with a virgin increases their virility, as well as bringing longevity and success in business.
Causes of Child Prostitution
The principal cause of prostitution is poverty. Parents often feel obligated to sell their children to pimps because their low salary does not allow them to meet the needs of their family. Poverty also becomes a cause of abandonment. This rejection forces children to leave their family environment to become street children. Vulnerable and in need of money, they are the main targets of operators who promise them work and remuneration.
Prostitution is a very lucrative activity compared to local salaries.
In Kenya, for example, a sexual encounter with a young girl under the age of 16 can cost around twenty euros. But the price can reach sixty euros depending on the situation. In comparison, the average Kenyan only earns four euros a day.
Each year, wars, natural catastrophes and the HIV/AIDS epidemic all contribute to the increase in the number of orphans. Being so vulnerable, these children accept any kind of work. Prostitution becomes a way to survive because the activity is extremely profitable compared to other forms of degrading or dangerous work.
Numerous children are kidnapped each year across the world and are integrated into prostitution networks against their will.
The Rise of the Sex Market
Over the past forty years, the sex industry has been industrialised and diffused by new methods of communication. The rise and normalisation of pornography in particular has contributed to the development of prostitution.
Profits of prostitution
Sex tourism involving children is the commercial sexual exploitation of children by one or many people travelling outside of their province, geographic region, or country.
Women prefer to go to India (Goa), Jamaica or Gambia whereas men travel to South-East Asia, Morocco, Senegal, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Panama, Suriname and Brazil.
For many years now, tourist guides have provided the addresses where one can procure the services of a child. The internet also promotes the details.
Pimps and Organised Crime
In most cases, prostituted children are under the control of pimps, who earn a percentage of the child’s revenues. It is very difficult to diminish this hold.
These pimps may be local former child prostitutes, or on a larger scale may belong to a global network of organised crime.
‘The chain which binds a child to their exploiter can be thousands of kilometres long’ (1).
Also considered to be intermediaries are recruiters, transporters, owners of brothels and taxi drivers, not to mention policemen who will all too often close their eyes to this curse.
Consequences for the Child
Child prostitution leads to negative effects on the wellbeing and mental health of the child later on in life, since they frequently become pimps themselves.
Access to Services
Sexually exploited children are uneducated children. Rejected by their relatives and marginalised by society, they have little access to healthcare and suffer extremely unhygienic conditions.
The spread of AIDS
Prostitution promotes the spread of HIV since numerous clients refuse to have protected sexual encounters with a child. The children are therefore vulnerable to many sexually transmitted infections.
Physical and Psychological illness
On a physical level, the damage to children includes vaginal tearing, physical after-effects of torture, pain, infection, or unwanted pregnancy.
On a psychological level, the child can also show many symptoms, such as depression, personality or sexual orientation confusion, problems with behaviour (aggressiveness or anger), trouble sleeping, loss of self-confidence, mistrust or hatred towards adults.
- Le Monde Diplomatique, Vers un tourisme sexuel de masse ? par Franck Michel, 2006.
- (1) UNICEF, A qui profite le crime ?
- OIT, Exploitation sexuelle commerciale des enfants.
- ECPAT France, La prostitution des enfants dans le monde, 2007.
- Pourquoi la prostitution infantile existe-t-elle ?
- ECPAT France, Le Guide des jeunes pour combattre le tourisme sexuel impliquant des enfants, 2007.
Written by : Fanny Busuttil
Review by : Valérie Theveniaut
Translated by : Amanda Bickel
Review by : Lucy Ward
Last update 12nd december 2011