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Child Prostitution in the Netherlands

by our Dutch Affairs editor Carin Tiggeloven


Congress_logo-nlThe number of Dutch children working in prostitution has increased dramatically over the past five years: from 4,000 to 15,000 according to figures published by the Amsterdam-based ChildRight organization. Dutch police says the numbers are much lower, but acknowledges there is a big problem. This week, a major conference on the global child sex trade went underway in the Japanese city of Yokohama.

Most children that end up in prostitution in the Netherlands are boys or young under aged asylum-seekers – particularly Nigerian girls. ChildRight claims this group numbers some 5,000 children. But recent years have seen a significant rise on the number of Dutch girls forced into the sex industry. Among them are an estimated 5,000 runaway or homeless children, many of whom are mentally retarded. Another large group (also 5,000) are ‘ordinary' Dutch schoolgirls, aged 13 or 14 from a "regular home environment" who are lured into prostitution by so-called "lover-boys".

real2 ChildRight Director Theo Knippenberg speaking to Newsline´s Andy Clark, 3´01"

Theo Knippenberg, the Director of ChildRight describes the lover-boys as handsome-looking adolescents who appear to have made it in life. They're well-dressed, drive expensive cars and lavish presents on these young and susceptible girls, who will quickly fall in love with them. "Of course, they'll have sex and after a while the girl will be forced to have sex with one of his friends, which will open the way for prostitution."

Research methods
ChildRight has based its findings on interviews with local relief workers, advice centres and police detectives from youth and vice squads. Police sources question the estimation of 15,000 and say it doesn't fit with their figures, which suggest that predominantly girls from migrant communities are still most at risk. The UN Children's Organisation UNICEF says it's unable to corroborate the figures, but its spokesperson Maud Drooghlever Fortuyn says that in her view, the estimates point to a serious problem, that appears to get bigger."


ChildRight Worldwide was founded in 1994 by Dutch Nobel Laureates Jan Tinbergen and Simon van der Meer.

It aims to bring child abuse to wider public attention, focusing primarily on child slavery and child labour.

Reporting to Police
ChildRight says official police figures are based on the number of cases that are reported. But, says Theo Knippenberg, "not many girls actually go to the police, which means that the true scale of the problem remains unknown." He believes that many detectives working for youth and vice squads are aware of the problem, but can do little about it as long as girls don't report.

According to ChildRight, police should give more attention to child prostitution, instead of focusing primarily on child pornography or drug abuse. "Drugs, weapons caches or trucks loaded with child porn are much more exciting than a 14-year-old girl victim", concludes Mr Knippenberg. It's a view flatly contradicted by a police spokesman, who points out that "a national project group has been set up after the government moved to legalise prostitution earlier this year. We know pretty well what's going on."

ChildRight has presented its report to this week's second World Congress against the Commercial Exploitation of Children in Yokohama. The gathering is also attended by UNICEF. Its spokesperson Maud Drooghlever Fortuyn says "it should be absolutely clear that the commercial exploitation of children in the sex industry cannot be tolerated. You can't just say: children should know what they're doing. This should be stopped, it should be punishable by law."



Tags: child labour, child pornography, Child Prostitution, ChildRight, second World Congress against the Commercial Exploitation of Children, sex industry, UNICEF, Yokohama