Trafficking in Children for Sexual Purposes
The global perspective
Trafficking in Children is a growing problem in all parts of the world. Children are trafficked from and to almost all regions. The situational analysis of this problem focuses on some of the regions where trafficking in children is more serious than others. Information in this article is taken from Looking Back, Thinking Forward 1999-2000, the recent report on the implementation of the Stockholm Agenda for Action undertaken by ECPAT International.
The trafficking of children for both sexual purposes and for cheap child labour is widespread in West Africa.
Reports indicate that hundreds of women and young girls are trafficked from Nigeria into the European sex industry. Although, the victims come from all over Nigeria, the majority of them come from Edo State. They are mostly from poor families and are lured by local agents with promises of well-paid manual jobs in countries, or sold to the agents by relatives. Italy is reported to be the main destination, however Germany, Belgium, Holland and Saudi Arabia are also receiver countries.
The Nigerian victims are trafficked in large numbers mainly through Ghana, and less so through Mali. In Europe, Britain is reportedly used as the main transit point. When the trafficking victims reach their destinations, they are unable to escape because of the huge debts that they owe to the traffickers. Voodoo is used to coerce the girls into working for their sponsors. Clear evidence of the trafficking of Nigerians was received in March 1999, when the Italian authorities deported 64 victims back to Nigeria. The Nigerian Police Force hosted an international workshop on trafficking in human beings in November 2000 in an attempt to tackle the problem.
Nigerian children are also trafficked to other countries in the region such as Gabon, Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Equatorial Guinea. It is unclear whether they are trafficked for sexual purposes or cheap labour. Nigeria is also a receiver country. Children are sent from Benin and Burkina Faso to Nigeria where they are forced to work as domestics. Some are exposed to sexual abuse and some find themselves in the commercial sex industry.
There have also been reports on the trafficking of children for sexual purposes from Guinea, Mali, Benin and Senegal. The trafficking of children from Guinea and Mali into neighbouring countries for either sexual purposes or cheap labour has reportedly become an increasing problem. In June 1999, a group of 174 children from Benin were caught being trafficked to Libya for prostitution. In Senegal, girls from the Southern Cassamance region, where a guerrilla war is going on, go to work as domestics in neighbouring Gambia where they are very vulnerable to CSEC. There is also a huge in-country trafficking from rural to urban cities in the region. These children are trafficked to serve as domestics but end up trapped in the circle of prostitution. Some are trafficked mainly for prostitution in the urban areas.
Throughout North and Central America, children are found prostituted outside their home countries. Prostituted children from El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama have been found in Guatemala. Guatemalan children have in turn been found employed in the child sex trade in El Salvador. It has been reported that many of the Honduran children working in prostitution in Guatemala were orphaned following Hurricane Mitch in October 1998.
It is difficult to establish the quantity or percentage of these children who have been trafficked and those who have travelled voluntarily. Reports indicate that some children travel northwards to the USA and use prostitution as a way to subsidise themselves during their journey. Trafficking throughout the region is facilitated by poor border controls and ineffective immigration authorities.
There is a large problem of child trafficking of Dominican girls for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation. There are an estimated 50,000 women and children overseas in the sex industry and the Dominican Republic ranks fourth as a source country, after Thailand, Brazil and the Philippines. Common destinations for Dominican females include Austria, Spain, Germany, Greece, Italy, and the Netherlands. Approximately 10% of the 500-600 visas issued to Dominican nationals for the Netherlands each year are for prostitution.
For the most part, women and children are lured by the prospect of employment and coerced into prostitution at the destination centre. This is primarily accomplished through debt bondage. Those with the destination of Europe are often trafficked via direct air route. Swiss traffickers are reported to have been active in the Dominican Republic for several years, working in the capital and in beach resorts. A common method used by Dutch traffickers is the false recognition of a Dominican daughter, whereby children under 17 can obtain Dutch nationality and travel to the Netherlands. Frequently, Denmark or Italy is the initial entry point into Europe as visas are not required. From here victims are easily trafficked to the rest of the region.
The trafficking of children for sexual purposes is an immense problem in South Asian countries. Bangladesh and Nepal are the dominant source countries for trafficking within the region. Estimates vary, but a safe estimation is that several thousand Bangladeshi girls are trafficked out of the country each year. Destination countries include India, Pakistan and the Gulf States.
In Nepal, 5000-7000 girls are trafficked out of the country each year, primarily to India. It is estimated that Nepalese children constitute 20% (40,000) of the estimated 200,000 Nepalese prostitutes in India. Girls as young as seven years are trafficked from economically depressed neighbourhoods in Nepal and Bangladesh, to the major prostitution centres of Mumbai, Calcutta, and Delhi. In Mumbai, an estimated 90 percent of sex workers started when they were under 18 years of age; half are from Nepal. A similar profile is believed to exist in Calcutta, though Bangladesh surpasses Nepal as the primary source of children for Calcutta.
India and Pakistan, aside from being destination countries, are also significant source and transit countries. Many child prostitutes in the brothels of India�s major cities come from rural villages and they are trafficked under the same guise as children from Bangladesh and Nepal. Indian and Pakistani female children are trafficked to the Middle East and Europe, often forced into being sex slaves. This is similar for the Bangladeshi and Nepalese children who pass through India and Pakistan en route to the Middle East and the West.
The reasons leading to the occurrence and rise in trafficking are common to all the South Asian countries. Poverty, lack of education, and the status of females and children from lower socio-economic backgrounds are all contributory factors. Lured by promises of good jobs or marriage, trafficking victims are frequently forced into debt bondage outside of the country.
The trafficking in this region is intricately linked with child prostitution. Children are trafficked for sexual purposes both internally within countries and across the international borders of the region. Internal trafficking has been reported in Indonesia, China, Myanmar and Vietnam. In Indonesia, girls are trafficked from East Java to be sold into prostitution in North Sumatra. Whilst girls from North Sumatra are trafficked to Medan and Batam Island. In China, there have been reports of children being lured away from rural areas and then forced into prostitution or sold as brides to bachelors in areas where women are scarce. In Myanmar, children are trafficked from other areas of the country to towns in Shan State on the China/Myanmar border.
Much of the cross-border trafficking in South East Asia involves Thailand. It is a receiver country as well as a transit and sender country. As Thailand�s economy is relatively more prosperous than others in the region, many children are lured to Thailand under the false pretence of employment. Children are trafficked into Thailand from Cambodia through Koh Kong and Poipet and from Myanmar, Laos and Yunnan province in China. In terms of sending, Thai girls are trafficked into Cambodia and further afield to Europe, Japan, Taiwan, North America, South Africa and Australia.
Vietnam and Indonesia are mainly sender countries, whilst China is both a sender and receiver country. Apart from Thailand, Vietnamese children are trafficked into Cambodia, China and Taiwan, whilst Indonesian children are trafficked into Malaysia and Singapore. Chinese girls are trafficked to Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand.
The trafficking of children for sexual purposes in East Asia also occurs through the disguise of arranged marriages through matching agents. In West Kalimantan, Indonesia, girls are offered the opportunity to marry Taiwanese or Hong Kong Chinese men. Similarly, young women from Thailand and Indonesia have reportedly become mail order brides in Taiwan.
The trafficking of children for sexual purposes is reaching alarming dimensions in Eastern Europe. The most worrying fact is that the trafficking is carried out by well-organised and powerful international criminal networks. Furthermore, recent reports indicate that Eastern European women are being marketed and sold over the internet by criminal gangs which then smuggle them to the West.
Most children from Eastern Europe are trafficked to Western Europe. Other major trafficking destinations are Turkey, Cyprus, Japan, Canada, Australia, Israel, the Middle East and South Africa. In terms of the Eastern part of Eastern Europe, children from Belorussia, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine are trafficked into the western sex industry. Russia and the Ukraine are the main sending countries and Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic are the major transit points for trafficking from this region of Eastern Europe. Since 1989, the trafficking of children from the Russian Federation has exploded, with their percentage in the international sex market overtaking previous sources of supply in Asia and Latin America.
Hungary and Poland are receiver, sender and transit countries for the trafficking of children for sexual purposes. Romania is a sender and receiver country but Bulgaria is only a sender country. Hungary and Poland receive children from Romania, Ukraine and Russia. The main destinations for children trafficked from and through Poland are Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium. Many of the victims are boys. Furthermore, in Poland students voluntarily prostitute themselves in Germany over the weekends in order to earn money. In Romania, homeless children have been trafficked for sexual purposes to Germany and Holland. Trafficking routes operate between Romania, Western Europe, Turkey and Cyprus. In Bulgaria, about 10,000 women and children have been trafficked abroad. The most vulnerable are young girls living in rural areas close to the borders who drop out of school. They are lured into the sex trade through two main channels, one through the Czech Republic and Poland to Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands and the other to Greece, Macedonia, Albania and Turkey.
The trafficking of children for sexual purposes also affects the Czech and Slovak republics. The Czech Republic is both a sender, receiver and transit country, whilst Slovakia is a sender and transit country. Cross border trafficking between the Czech Republic and Germany is common, especially to Saxony and Bavaria. The trafficking of sexually innocent boys from the Czech Republic to Germany and the Netherlands is also common. The boys are reportedly smuggled across the border under seats of trucks. Foreign boys are also trafficked into the Czech Republic, mainly to Prague.
Over the last year, the trafficking of children to the Balkans has flourished. Much of the demand emanates from KFOR troops stationed in the Former Yugoslav Province of Kosovo. Details about the reported trafficking to the province are sketchy. There have been reports of hundreds of young Bulgarian girls working in Kosovo under very harsh conditions. Although there are no exact reports, it is thought that girls from other countries in the region are also trafficked into Kosovo .
Finally, with reference to the Baltics, according to the IOM the trafficking in human beings from and through the Baltic countries is increasing. In Estonia, the cross-border trafficking of young women is a problem. In Latvia, there are reported links between trafficking and corrupt law enforcement institutions. Whereas in Lithuania, children are trafficked for sexual purposes to EU member states.