UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, estimates that more than a million children worldwide are forced into prostitution each year. And the number of unreported cases of child sexual exploitation is very high.
There are seldom ads. The poorer countries in Africa, Asia and South America, but also in Eastern Europe, are particularly affected. The children are kidnapped, sold, sent to brothels and to the streets and have to be sexually available to customers for the equivalent of a few euros.
The causes of child prostitution mostly lie in the economic and social problems of many countries. In the so-called developing countries in particular, a lack of school and training opportunities, poverty and a lack of prospects for children lead to a booming market for child prostitution.
Many child prostitutes are sold by their parents. The family income is not enough and the parents hope that the earnings of the children will improve the situation.
The child traffickers promise the children an education or a job. Some parents believe this, others turn a blind eye to the truth, and others don’t care – especially when it comes to daughters. Girls don’t count very much in some cultures.
It is no longer a big step from discrimination to exploitation. Many child prostitutes also come from broken families and were street children before. Often nobody notices when they are suddenly no longer there.
The victims are girls and boys, mostly between the ages of 14 and 18, but increasingly also younger children. In the age of AIDS , the very young children are particularly sought after by the suitors, as they are believed to be disease-free. The little ones in particular are often infected because they have a very high risk of injury when driving.
In some cultures, such as South Africa, many men believe that having sex with a virgin can cure them of AIDS, rejuvenate them, or make them rich. This superstition leads to numerous rapes of little girls. Many children are held captive, tortured and made addicted to drugs by their pimps.
The police usually treat the children like criminals, and there are only a few offers to quit. Former child prostitutes often find it very difficult to find a way back to an independent, free life. Most suffer from permanent physical and mental disorders. Often their own children become child prostitutes again.
The child traffickers are well organized criminal organizations that ruthlessly treat children as goods. In addition to pimps and customers, a large number of people are involved in the trade: from the hotel’s night porter, who looks away when children are sent to the room, to tour guides and corrupt police officers who refuse to intervene.
The customers are almost always men of all nationalities. Most of the perpetrators are locals, but in the course of mass tourism, more sex tourists are coming to the respective countries, including from Europe.
More solvent than the locals, they stimulate the market and, through their demand, ensure that more and more children are being forced into prostitution by the traders.
Due to the anonymity on vacation, the risk of arrest seems low to customers. These sex tourists in particular do not see themselves as criminals. The awareness of injustice is far too weak.
Many child molesters film and photograph the children during the abuse and distribute these images in stores or on the Internet. The children suffer severe and permanent damage to body and soul, the perpetrators often get away with it.
The sexual exploitation of children is one of the most lucrative of all illegal businesses, alongside drug and arms trafficking. UNICEF assumes that child prostitution and child pornography turn over billions of euros a year.