Sex trafficking is basically defined as the enlisting, harboring, provision, moving, or acquisition of an individual for the main goal of a commercial sex act. In this case, an individual who has not attained 18 years old is forced or coerced to perform sexual acts. Generally, a person is forced or coerced for the purpose of debt bondage, involuntary servitude, or slavery. In the past few years, child sex trafficking has become a major epidemic not only in the United States but also across the world. While many people know the issue of child sex trafficking, they are not aware of the extent of uncontrolled exploitation of children and its impact. Given the severity of the impact of child sex trafficking, it is increasingly important to understand this crime and develop appropriate policy measures to reduce its prevalence.
The Problem of Child Trafficking:
As previously mentioned, child sex trafficking is defined as recruitment, movement, provision, or obtaining of an individual who has not attained 18 years old and coercing or forcing him/her to perform sexual acts ("What is Sex Trafficking?" n.d.). This crime has become an ever-growing epidemic across the globe even though many people may have heard of it. The extent of uncontrolled sexual exploitation of children around the globe remains largely unknown since many people do not give the issue a second thought. However, child sex trafficking involves exploitation of children in a disgusting, inhuman manner through which perpetrators make money. This implies that the perpetrators of the crime exploit children for the sole purpose of personal financial gain.
Despite the increase in child sex trafficking, the practice has always been an act of disrespect to human dignity since it involves invariable infringement of various core human rights. Child trafficking is considered an affront to human dignity because the victims face a wide range of threats to their well-being, health, development, and even their lives in some cases. HIV / AIDS is also a clear and evident danger or threat because the trafficked children are increasingly forced into sexual servitude. In addition, children coerced into military and paramilitary setups in conflict zones face numerous threats to their lives and limb because of the grave situations in such areas.
Child trafficking is widely recognized as an abominable practice though most people do not have knowledge about the health risks associated with such illegal practices. As a result of the lack of knowledge of the risks and threats that child victims are exposed to, the development of the most appropriate measures to address the problem is quite challenging. At the level of the child victim, trafficking is accompanied with physical and mental health threats. Moreover, access to care for vulnerable children is strongly restricted by the exploitative and concealed nature of the case. Generally, children rarely come across healthcare providers and even in situations where there is access their conditions are likely to remain unrecognized and unreported. As compared to victims of women trafficking, the lack of healthcare settings for trafficked children is not described well. This is regardless of the fact that child victims may be highly unlikely to understand the nature and degree of their conditions and ignorant of their respective rights (Beyrer, 2004, p.16).
The severity of child sex trafficking is difficult to understand because of the significant challenges in measuring the number of trafficked children across the globe. Nonetheless, child trafficking problem is an issue of wider geographic distribution. Most of the groups dealing with the problem of child trafficking have agreed that approximately 1.2 million children are trafficked worldwide on an annual basis. Some of the most commonly affected areas include west Africa, south Asia, central Asia, the Balkans, Eastern Europe, western Europe, and Latin America, particularly Colombia and Mexico. Since most child victims are trafficked for controlled and cheap labor, they end up working in homes, factories, restaurants, farms, and on construction settings.
There are various contributing factors to the problem of child trafficking across the globe including the widening gap between the poor and the rich, structural forces, increased demand for cheaper and more forced labor, and increased use of children in armies and conflict zones. Regardless of the various measures undertaken to address the problem, it is predicted that child trafficking will continue in the future because these root-cause factors are yet to be addressed. The other reason for the expected increase in child trafficking cases is the exploitation of children for sexual purposes, which has led to the emergence and increase of child sex trafficking across the world.
The Extent of Child Sex Trafficking:
According to Rafferty (2013), trafficking of children including for commercial sexual exploitation is one of fastest growing and financially rewarding criminal activity around the world (p.559). Children are increasingly becoming targets for perpetrators of these offenses who move the victims within their home country or transport them away from their homes countries. The offenders treat their victims as commodities to be purchased, sold, and resold for sexual exploitation or labor. The findings of numerous surveys have indicated that girls are increasingly likely to be trafficked into sex trade all over the world. Actually, girls and women account for approximately 98% of victims who are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation. The victims of these criminal activities are exposed to numerous threats to their health and well-being because of the generally extremely low status of the health and safety standards in the exploitative settings.
The determination of the nature and extent of child sex trafficking is based on the implementation of ongoing prevention and programs towards child trafficking/commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) within specific countries and regions. Most of the existing literature on this issue is based on victim profiles, case studies, and in-depth reports from countries that show the growth of this phenomenon. In essence, the reports consists more statistical data and trafficking profiles unlike literature addressing the trafficking of women.
Based on the available literature, there is an increase in the number of children trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation and a decrease in the age of sexually exploited children. For instance, countries in South America such as Paraguay have experienced an increase in these incidents and some of the victims are as young as 8 years old. In the past few years, more than 60% of victims of child sex trafficking are below 10 years while other are as young as 6 years (Gozdziak & Bump, 2008, p.6).
The increase in cases of child sex trafficking is attributed to several factors, particularly the development of the sex tourism industry. While some women are recruiting male prostitutes, men are the basic sex tourist exploiters of children in the world, especially in the Caribbean and Latin America. The development of the sex tourism industry has contributed to the trafficking of children for pornography and prostitution. Secondly, child sex trafficking continues to increase because of the ease in obtaining travel documents for a person below the age of 18 years. This implies that many countries do not have stringiest measures in preventing the likelihood of exploitation of children for commercial sex purposes. Third, many children are exploited to provide income for their families, particularly those in Latin America and the Caribbean. Fourth, children who are victims of sexual abuse in their homes are likely to become victims of child sex trafficking because of their engagement in prostitution. The other contributing factors are poor economic and living conditions, the low status of women in the society, and drug and alcohol abuse. In some cases, families allow child traffickers to take their children after being promised high-paying jobs or because of deceptive practices and false promises.
Given the increase of child sex trafficking, it is important to understand the impact of this crime on children and the society in general. Generally, trafficked children experience negative effects on their physical, psychological, and social-emotional development due to exposure to unhealthy living conditions. In some cases, an enslaved child is raped approximately ten times per night (Harden, 2013). These victims are typically stripped of their human dignity since their names are substituted with a number once they are coerced into a brothel. This implies that the main impact of child sex trafficking on victims is loss of human dignity because of exposure to illegal and inappropriate sexual acts among other activities. These victims sometimes turn into drugs and alcohol abuse as a tool for dealing with the physical, psychological, and social-emotional torture. In addition to engagement in drug and alcohol abuse, some of these children resort to engaging in criminal activities, which results in the increase in crime across the world and in nearly every society.
The increase in the cases of child sex trafficking is also brought by the weak governmental policies and legislation that address this crime. Many countries such as Cambodia have weak child protection infrastructures while government institutions are driven with corruption. For example, the anti-trafficking laws in Cambodia do not permit law enforcement agencies and personnel…