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Child Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation
Approximately two million children are held in bondage on the global commercial sex trade market…some as young as five years old. Some are sold into prostitution by parents to pay off family debts while others are or forcibly recruited on streets. Their average age is 14. They are coerced to work in brothels and made to have sex with as many as 30 men a day.
Human trafficking has been defined as an illegal trade in human beings for the express purposes of commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor.
Although these methods of recruiting are still practiced, today it’s much easier and profitable for scoundrels to ply their sick trade online. One of the latest suspected culprits has been Craiglist, the Canadian online advertising giant who has been accused of trafficking in underage and foreign sex slaves. It’s relatively simple to place an ad and take it down in as little as a few seconds. Victims can be physically moved quickly, but they are still present online as merchandise.
Human trafficking definitions have also been expanded to include the lucrative sex tourism trade. This is because often businessmen, tourists and others travel to impoverished countries such as Cambodia, Thailand, Mexico, Costa Rica and Brazil where they can find relative anonymity and low cost prostitution without retribution from local governments.
Americans are among those from wealthier countries who exploit these children. However, the United States now has law prohibiting such activity in these countries and is working to make even stricter laws. American citizens account for about 25 % of child sex violations. Sexual activity with a child under 18 can expect a 30 year prison sentence.
Physically and Emotionally Damaged
Sadly, many sexually exploited children have been physically and emotionally damaged, suffering from HIV and AIDS in addition to being rejected by their families and communities. But, national attention to this pervasive, shameful industry has launched new efforts to combat the crime.
Charitable organizations like World Vision have combined forces with governments and law enforcement agencies to prevent further spread of the problem through a program called the Child Sex Tourism Prevention Project. It has been established in Cambodia, Thailand, Costa Rica, Mexico, Brazil and the United States. They are being backed by the U.S. State Department and Department of Health and Human Services as well as with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
These organizations mission is to prevent children from being drawn into this web through education, advocacy and making other means available for victims to support themselves. The United Nations has also implemented international diplomatic guidelines referred to as the Trafficking Protocol in an attempt to stem the tide. As of December 2003 the protocol had been adopted by 117 countries and 137 other concerned parties.
Thousands of children from Asia, Africa, and South America are sold worldwide each year for purposes of sexual exploitation or illegal adoptions. Often they are kidnapped or orphaned children and sometimes sold by their own families. Part of the problem has been, up until now, there had been no universally accepted definition.
Sex trafficking victims are usually those in dire circumstances who make easy targets. These would include homeless individuals, runaway teens, displaced homemakers, refugees, and drug addicts.
Different ruses are employed to lure their prey such as promises of marriage, employment and educational opportunities. However, their fate is being forced to become prostitutes or working as strippers. They may also be made to perform in pornographic films. To this end there are international brokers who arrange travel and so called job placements. Most, however, find themselves in an abusive situation both difficult and dangerous to escape from. Threats of harm to themselves and family are common in cementing their bondage.
Many mistakenly think trafficking only occurs in poor countries. But every country in the world is involved. Having a product to sell is one thing. Having customers who can afford it is another. Victims may come from destitute economies but usually end up in more affluent countries like Japan, India, Western Europe and the United States. Most trafficking is run by large criminal organizations. Little startup capital is required, and prosecution is not a major concern.
The United States is considered a transit and destination country for trafficking in persons. It is thought 14,500 to 17,500 people, mostly women and children, are trafficked to the U.S. each year.
Enforcing trafficking laws has been difficult due to unclear wording. Therefore, shelters have been set up to help the victims. Many websites can be found having information where these shelters are and how to get help.