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Prostitution of children or child prostitution is a form of child sexual abuse involving the commercial sexual exploitation of children in which a child performs the services of prostitution, for financial benefit. The term normally refers to prostitution by a minor, or person under the local age of majority. In many countries there are specific laws against child prostitution which may include people who are older than the local Age of consent.

The form of child prostitution in which people travel to foreign countries for the purposes of avoiding laws in their country of residence is known as child sex tourism.

A customer may negotiate an exchange directly with a child prostitute in order to receive sexual gratification, or through an intermediary (pimp) who controls or oversees the prostitute’s activities for profit. The provision of children for sexual purposes may also be an object of exchange between adults. Many children are prostituted over the Internet with the use of webcams to facilitate this abuse, and child pornography may be linked to the prostitution.


The Optional protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography to the Convention on the Rights of the Child states that child prostitution is the practice whereby a child sells his or her body for sexual activities in return for remuneration or any other form of consideration. The remuneration or other consideration could be provided to the prostitute or to another person. The 131 countries who are parties to the Optional Protocol (at May 2009) undertake to prohibit child prostitution.

The Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (Convention No 182) of the International Labour Organization (ILO) provides that the "use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution" is one of the "worst forms of child labor." This convention, adopted in 1999, provides that countries that had ratified it must eliminate the practice urgently. It enjoys the fastest pace of ratifications in the ILO's history since 1919.



Child prostitution is sometimes used to describe the wider concept of commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC). However, child prostitution excludes other identifiable manifestations of CSEC, such as commercial sexual exploitation through child marriage, domestic child labor, and the trafficking of children for sexual purposes.

It was the limitations of the term child prostitution that led to the development in the mid-1990s of the term commercial sexual exploitation of children, or CVE,as a more encompassing description of specific forms of sexual trade involving children. Nevertheless, ‘child prostitution’ remains in common usage and is indeed the wording embedded in international instruments of law.

Some believe that the terms child prostitution and child prostitute carry problematic connotations. They claim this is because these terms, on their own, fail to make it clear that children are generally not expected to be able to make an informed choice to prostitute themselves. The act of prostituting a child is sometimes carried out by another party, as stated in the definition provided by the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

Causes and contextEdit

Children are often forced by social structures and individual agents into situations in which adults take advantage of their vulnerability and sexually exploit and abuse them. Structure and agency commonly combine to force a child into commercial sex: for example, the prostitution of a child frequently follows from prior sexual abuse, often in the child's home.[1]

Child prostitution usually takes place in particular environments, such as brothels, bars and clubs, or homes, or particular streets and areas (usually in socially run down places). Sometimes it is not organized, but often it is, either on a small scale through individual pimps or on a larger scale through extensive criminal networks. See organized crime.

Children also engage in prostitution, however, when they exchange sex outside these environments and in return not only for basic needs such as shelter, food, clothing, or safety, but also for extra pocket money for desired consumer goods otherwise out of their reach. There is a subculture of "pocket money prostitution" in many consumer societies, including the United States, whereby girls and boys under 18 rent out their sexual services for cash or expensive gifts, or to save up for cars, motorcycles, even college tuition.

These people are prostituted in conditions that appear otherwise perfectly normal. Enjo kosai, the pay-dating or "sponsored dating" practice reported in Japan, is considered a prime example of this. However, this latter practice is by definition voluntary rather than via manipulation.

Living and working conditions for children that are prostitutes are frequently substandard. Such children are commonly poorly paid or unpaid,[citation needed] kept in unsanitary conditions, denied access to proper medical care, and constantly watched and kept subservient through threat of force.[citation needed] These threats may be physical or psychological in nature.[citation needed]

While some sex tourists may make use of child prostitutes, it has been argued that the majority of their 'clients' are instead the locals. Quoting from the back cover of a recent work:[2]
The Asian sex trade is often assumed to cater predominantly to foreigners. Sex Slaves turns that belief on its head to show that while western sex tourists have played a vital part in the growth of the industry, the primary customers of Asia's indentured sex workers and of its child prostitutes are overwhelmingly Asians.


While the legality of adult prostitution varies between different parts of the world, the prostitution of minors is illegal in most countries. Furthermore, many countries whose citizens most frequently engage in international child procurement, such as the United States,[3] Australia and European countries, enforce worldwide jurisdiction on their nationals traveling abroad.

As previously mentioned, some literature refers to prostitutes aged at least 13 but less than 18 years of age as 'teenage prostitutes,' but the most common definition of a 'child' is a person who is under the age of 18. The latter definition is used by the ILO's Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, discussed above. Therefore prostitution of children usually assumed to refer to the prostitution of persons under 18.

The laws of some countries do, however, distinguish between teenage prostitutes and the prostitution of younger children. For example, the Thai government defines a teenage prostitute as being between 15 and 18 years old, while the Japanese government defines one as being between 13 and 18. "Teenage prostitution" is not the only concept distinguising between less and more serious illegal acts. In the People's Republic of China, all forms of prostitution are illegal, but having sexual contact with anyone under the age of 14, regardless of consent, will be charged with a more serious crime than raping an adult.



In Cambodia, it has been estimated that about a third of all prostitutes are under 18.[4]

The exact number of child-prostitutes in Thailand is not known, but Thailand’s Health System Research Institute reports that children in prostitution make up 40% of prostitutes in Thailand.[5]

In India, the federal police say that around 1.2 million children are believed to be involved in prostitution.[6] A CBI statement said that studies and surveys sponsored by the ministry of women and child development estimated that about 40% of all India's prostitutes are children.[6]

An article in the Gulf Times revealed a major sex trade in mostly Nepalese boys who were lured to India and sold to brothels in Mumbai, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Lucknow and Gorakhpur. One victim was lured from Nepal at the age of 14, sold into slavery, locked up, beaten, starved and forcibly circumcised. He reported that he was held in a brothel with 40 to 50 other boys, many of whom were castrated. He escaped and made his way back to Nepal. Two Non Government Organisations, one that work with homosexuals in Nepal, and one that works to rescue and rehabilitate trafficked women and children were co-operating to help these boys.[7]

In Indonesia, UNICEF estimates that 30% of the female prostitutes are below 18.[8]

In Sri Lanka, there are nearly 40,000 child prostitutes, according to UNICEF and ILO.[9]

In the Philippines, there are 60,000 to 100,000 prostituted children, according to UNICEF and non-governmental organisations.[10]

In Nepal, according to research conducted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) on 440 prostitutes from Kathmandu, approximately 30% of them were found to be children.[11]

In Bangladesh, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimated in 2004 that there were 10,000 underage girls used in commercial sexual exploitation in the country, but other estimates placed the figure as high as 29,000.[12]

There are estimated to be at least 70,000 prostitutes in Vietnam, and 20,000 of these are children.[13]

In Afghanistan, Bacha Bazi is a form of child prostitution employed by Afghan warlords where small boys are regularly bought and sold into sexual slavery.

South AmericaEdit

By 1999, it was reported that in Argentina child prostitution was increasing at an alarming rate and that the average age was decreasing. The CATW fact book says Argentina is one of the favored destinations of pedophile sex tourists from Europe and the United States.[14] The Criminal Code criminalizes the prostitution of minors of eighteen years of age or younger,[15] but it only sanctions those who “promote or facilitate” prostitution, and not the client who exploits the minor.[16]

It is estimated that Peru has about 500,000 child prostitutes.[17][18]

In Colombia, it is estimated that there are 35,000 child prostitutes, with between 5,000 and 10,000 of them on the streets of Bogotá.[19][20]

In Chile the estimated number of children involved in some form of prostitution has decreased. In 1999 UNICEF informed that there were approximately 10,000 children between the ages of 6 and 18 involved in prostitution, but in 2003, a governmental agency estimated that there were approximately 3,700 minors.[21]

In Ecuador, a 2002 International Labor Organization report estimated that 5,200 minors were engaged in prostitution.[22]

In Bolivia, the average age of entry into prostitution is 16.[23]

Brazil is considered to have the worst child sex trafficking record after Thailand.[24] According to the Protection Project report, various official sources agree that from 250,000 to 500,000 children live as child prostitutes, but other sources in Brazil put the number at up to 2,000,000 children.[24]

North AmericaEdit

In 2001, Dr. Richard Estes and Dr. Neil Alan Weiner estimated that in the U.S., 162,000 U.S. homeless youth are child prostitutes (CVE) and that 57,800 children in homes (including public housing) are estimated to be victims of CVE. They also estimated that 30% of shelter youth and 70% of homeless youth are victims of CVE in the United States.[25] One third of street-level prostitutes in the U.S. are under 18 years old while fifty percent of off-street prostitutes are less than 18 years old.[25] Off-street prostitution includes massage parlors, strip clubs, and escort services. According to Estes and Weiner, 12 to 14 is the average age of entry into prostitution for girls under 17 years old in the United States while the average age of entry into prostitution is between 11 and 13.[25]

A study by Unicef Mexico and the DIF/National System for Integral Family Development estimated that more than 16,000 children in Mexico were involved in prostitution (in June 2000);[26] a 2004 study by researcher Elena Azaola estimated that some 17,000 children under the age of 18 are victims of the sex trade in Mexico;[27] the State System of Integral Family Development (DIF) reported that more than 20,000 minors were victims of child prostitution in Mexico in 2005, an increase since the year 2000.[28] Out of Mexico City’s 13,000 street children, 95% have already had at least one sexual encounter with an adult (many of them through prostitution).[29]

In El Salvador, an NGO study in 1998 indicated that at least 44% of the estimated 1,300 prostitutes in three major red light districts of San Salvador were between the ages of 13 and 18.[30] Among all prostitutes of the country, between 10 and 25 percent of visible prostitutes are minors, and an estimated 40 percent of the hidden prostitutes who cater to upper-class clients are believed to be minors, according to a UNICEF study released in 2000.[31]

In Nicaragua, according to Casa Alianza, in the brothels of Managua there are between 1,200 and 1,500 prostituted girls and young women, and almost half of them are under the age of 18.[32] Every night, hundreds of teenage girls line the Masaya Highway commercial corridor on the capital's south side. Street children engage in prostitution, often to support a drug habit.


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In Ukraine, research has shown that between 30 and 40 percent of prostitutes are between 11 and 18 years.[33]

A 2006 report by World Vision Middle East/Eastern Europe funded by the Canadian government and supported by six United Nations agencies and the International Organization for Migration reported that the sexual exploitation of children, child trafficking and sexual violence towards minors is increasing and that Russia is becoming a new destination for child sex tourism. The report adds that some studies claim approximately 20 to 25 percent of Moscow's sex workers are minors.[34]


In Australia, there are an estimated 4000 children involved in prostitution, according to a study by Child Wise, the Australian arm of the global End Child Prostitution Pornography And Trafficking group.[35][36]

ECPAT New Zealand and Stop Demand Foundation have cited in a report, “The Nature and Extent of the Sex Industry in New Zealand,” a police survey of the New Zealand sex industry, which showed that 210 children under the age of 18 years were identified as selling sex, with three-quarters being concentrated in one Police District.[37]

See alsoEdit

References Edit

  1. National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking: America's Prostituted Children, Shared Hope International, 2009, pg 31–32
  2. Back cover quote from: Louise Brown, Sex Slaves: The Trafficking of Women in Asia, Virago Press, 2001. ISBN 1860499031.
  3. US Dept. of Justice, Federal Efforts to Combat Interstate Sex Trafficking of Minors, retrieved April 23, 2007
  4. "Cambodia Child Rights Sex Abuse Facts Phnom Penh Travel". Archived from the original on 2005-02-09.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Official: More than 1M child prostitutes in India". CNN. May 11, 2009.
  7. "Former sex worker’s tale spurs rescue mission". Gulf Times. 10 April 2005. Retrieved 5 October 2010. "“I spent seven years in hell,” says Raju, now 21, trying hard not to cry. Thapa Magar took him to Rani Haveli, a brothel in Mumbai that specialised in male sex workers and sold him for Nepali Rs 85,000. A Muslim man ran the flesh trade there in young boys and girls, most of them lured from Nepal. For two years, Raju was kept locked up, taught to dress as a girl and circumcised. Many of the other boys there were castrated. Beatings and starvation became a part of his life. “There were 40 to 50 boys in the place,” a gaunt, brooding Raju recalls. “Most of them were Nepalese.”"
  8. "Indonesia".
  9. "40,000 child prostitutes in Sri Lanka, says Child Rights Group". TamilNet. 12.06.06.
  10. Juvida, Sol F. (Oct 12). "Scourge of Child Prostitution". MANILA: IPS.
  12. "2008 Human Rights Report: Bangladesh". United States Department of State.
  13. Vietnam
  14. ECPAT International, A Step Forward, 1999, referenced in
  15. 1 Codigo Penal y Leyes Complementarias, art. 125 bis (6th ed., Editorial Astrea, Buenos Aires, 2007).
  17. "Child prostitution becomes global problem, with Russia no exception". Pravda (Pravda.Ru). 11-10-2006.
  18. "Worst Form of Child Labour - Peru". Global March Against Child Labour.
  19.[dead link]
  20. "Soaring child prostitution in Colombia". BBC Online. January 27, 2001.
  23. Rights of the Child in Bolivia
  24. 24.0 24.1 "The Crisis of Child Sexual Exploitation in Brazil".
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 Richard J. Estes, Ph.D., and Neil Alan Weiner, Ph.D. "Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the U.S. Canada and Mexico", University of Pennsylvania, September 18, 2001.
  26. "Gateways to exploitation". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on 2012-04-07.
  27. "Key Video Evidence Blocked in Child Sex Ring Trial". IPS (MEXICO:
  29. 16,000 Victims of Child Sexual Exploitation
  32. Gutman, W. E. (April 17, 2004). "Child prostitution: the ugliest part of tourism". The Panama News (TEGUCIGALPA).
  34.[dead link]
  37. Scoop: Under Age Prostitution

es:Prostitución infantil id:Pelacuran anak nl:Kinderprostitutie ja:児童買春 pl:Prostytucja dziecięca pt:Prostituição infantil ru:Детская проституция simple:Child prostitution uk:Дитяча проституція zh:雛妓

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