Shocking stories of trafficked children forced into slavery is often cited in newspapers. Children are trafficked for sexual exploitation, slavery, etc. Children from poor families from Africa, Southeast Asia, etc. are lured with dreams of migrating to Europe or America and gaining a better life. But instead, they are caught in the web of servitude.
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Trafficking in children is a global problem that has serious consequences to the present and future generations. An estimated number of 1 to 1.2 million children is trafficked globally annually (Beyrer 2004). The global trafficking industry is estimated to have a turnover of more than $10 million and 50 percent of this is child trafficking (UNICEF 2005).
Children are sold as commodities in this web of international trade. They are sold in foreign countries or internally usually from rural to urban areas. The enslavement of children results in millions of victims who are abused, smuggled and traded. These victims face cruel assault on their security and solemnity.
Child trafficking violates many core human rights, as it is a severe attack on human dignity. These children become victims of different forms of exploitation like sexual exploitation, forced labour, removal of organs etc. (Larsen 2011). Sexual exploitation of children being trafficked is a major problem is regions like Southeast Asia (Rafferty 2007), EU (Staiger 2005), Canada (Grover 2006), etc.
One of the main issues related to trafficking of children is how rampant is the problem and the identification of the victim. Further, trafficking of children poses concern for policymakers from both the countries where trafficking occurs and those where these children are trafficked.
Issues related to the prevention and subsequent rehabilitation of the trafficked children is observed in many developed countries. This paper discusses the various facets of child trafficking and its related issue of sexual exploitation of the trafficked children. Further, the paper sheds light on the trafficking of children in Canada.
In order to understand the problem related to child trafficking it is necessary to define the term trafficking. Trafficking is defined under Article 3 of the United Nations Protocol as the process of “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion … for the purpose of exploitation.” (UNICEF 2005:11)
The definition clearly identifies the process of trafficking as a serious impingement to human rights and as an illegal activity. Further, the protocol clearly identifies the case of child trafficking as different from that of women or male adult trafficking, as it concerns a minor.
The nature of the trafficking crime becomes more intense as a minor gets into the trap of the trafficker due to deceit. The nature of exploitation of the children trafficked are varied in nature. According to the protocol exploitation is defined as “at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs” (UNICEF 2005:11).
The exploitative nature of child trafficking makes it more severely inhuman as an activity. Trafficking is a criminal act even though the definition many times does not explicitly mention it to be illegal. There is a definite lack of proper identification and data maintained for the number of trafficked children, but the number is huge and it is increasing consistently every year.
The exploitative nature of trafficking is abundantly clear. Children are trafficked for various exploitative purposes that include forced labour, sexual exploitation, marriage, domestic labour, military recruitment, and most heinously, for their organs. However, most of these children are trafficked for sex trade.
An estimated number of 1.8 million children in 2000, according to International Labour Organization (ILO), are traded into prostitution or pornographic industry. (UNICEF 2005; Staiger 2005) These children become victims of extreme form of physical, sexual, and psychological abuse.
Children are widely being recruited in conflict zones in armies or militia (Beyrer 2004; UNICEF 2005). The role of the children varies in such outfits where they work as soldiers, cooks, messengers, porters or sexual partners. Girls in conflict zones are extremely vulnerable to sexual abuse. Children join such outfits due to extreme poverty or are abducted.
In EU, children are trafficked for sexual exploitation from Central and Eastern European countries (Staiger 2005). Children above the age of 14 years are forced by poverty or gender related factors to succumb to traffickers. For instance, trafficking of Nepalese girls for sexual exploitation is largely related to domestic gender differences (Rafferty 2007).
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In such countries, children are recruited mainly through the Internet, and transported to the EU countries. Germany is one of the destinations for children trafficked for sexual exploitation from Czech, Russia and Ukraine (Staiger 2005). Italy, Greece, and Belgium are destination for Albanian kids to be trafficked (Staiger 2005).
Why there is a rise in global trafficking of children? The reason lies in the widening gap between the poor and the rich, as the latter has access to greater chunk of the already scarce resources. The structural reasons that are driving child trafficking is demand for cheap child labour, especially those who can be controlled and continuously monitored.
An ILO estimate reveals that in 2003 there were 8 million children living under debt bondage mostly due to trafficking (Beyrer 2004) and more than 2 million children trafficked globally are exploited for sexual labour (Rafferty 2007). Omnivorous sex trade is also in demand, but girls are mostly in demand among traffickers as heterosexual sex trade has a greater demand. Sexual abusers may be paedophile abuser, prostitution, pornographic industry, and sex tourism (Rafferty 2007).
Canada, like many other developed countries, is destination for child traffickers. Children are brought in the country in crowded cargoes in ships in inhuman condition without food or water or ventilation (Grover 2006). These children are forced into prostitution or in the pornographic industry. However, there is an increasing problem of identification of these children. Further, the Canadian government is yet to provide a refugee status to the child victims of trafficking that add to their woes, even after they are rehabilitated, in a foreign land (Grover 2006).
A video report on child trafficking and child sex industry in Cambodia shows how young girls are lured into the sex industry (Journeyman Pictures 2007). The video demonstrates how the children are driven into prostitution at an early age of 10 years.
The video shows mostly the mothers sell their young daughters into the sex industry and it is due to poverty. the report shows that though it is believed that the Cambodian child sex industry developed due to demand from foreign tourists of virgins. But actually, Cambodian men demand for virgin girls, for which this industry developed.
Child trafficking is a growing problem globally. The way to counter is not only identification of the victims but also through prevention of the incidence of trafficking. In many cases the children are so brutally abused and traumatized, rehabilitation is of hardly any use to them.
The aim should be preventing and absolutely doing away with child trafficking rather than identification and protection of victims. However, it is difficult for the government to prevent or stop trafficking for sex trade for a few reasons. First as it is difficult to ascertain the age of the trafficked person and the reason for which she is trafficked.
Beyrer, Chris. 2004. “Global Child Trafficking.” Lancet 364(1):16-17.
Grover, Sonja. 2006. “Denying Right of Trafficked Minors to be Classed as Convention Refugees: The Canadian Case Example.” The International Jornal of Chindren’s Rights 14:235-249.
Journeyman Pictures. 2007. “Stolen Innocence – Cambodia.” YouTube. Retrieved (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4ieL2PezjE).
Larsen, Jacqueline J. 2011. “The trafficking of children in the Asia-Pacific.” Trends and Issues in crime and criminal justice, Australian Institute of Criminology, Australian Governement.
Rafferty, Yvonne. 2007. “Children for Sale: Child Trafficking in Southeast Asia.” Child Abuse Review 16:401-422.
Staiger, Ines. 2005. “Trafficking in Children for the purpose of Sexual Exploitation in the EU.” European Journal of Crime, Criminal Law and Criminal Justice 13(4):603-624.
UNICEF. 2005. “Combating Child Trafficking.” UNICEF. Retrieved (https://www.unicef.org/publications/index_33882.html).