According to the Terminology guidelines for the protection of children from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, this form of exploitation consists of a child performing a sexual act in exchange for (a promise of) something of value (money, objects, shelter, food, drugs, etc). It is not necessarily the child who receives the object of exchange, but often a third person. Moreover, it is not necessary that an object of exchange is actually given; the mere promise of an exchange suffices, even if it is never fulfilled.
Why don’t we use the term “child prostitution”?
The definition of the Guide is based on that of the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (2000), which is also taken up by the Lanzarote Convention (2007) and the European Directive 2011/93/EU. These instruments refer to “child prostitution”. However, this term is not considered legally universal, and has since been called into question. It may be interpreted in a way that implies that the phenomenon is a legitimate form of prostitution or that the child has knowingly consented to prostitution. Similarly, the terms “child prostitute” or “child sex worker” distort the reality of the phenomenon, suggesting it is the child’s choice.
A child does not choose to engage in prostitution, she/he is forced by circumstances, values, social norms, or abusive people. Speaking of “child prostitution” suggests that it is primarily a matter of prostitution or sex work, with the assumption that the child has knowingly consented to prostitution.
A global phenomenon
The sexual exploitation of children in prostitution is a secular and global problem that has been escalating over the decades.
Asia, and particularly Southeast Asia, is often perceived as the region most affected by the phenomenon. This form of sexual exploitation of children is however present everywhere, whether in developed or developing countries. The secret and clandestine nature of this crime makes statistics on the number of child victims difficult to obtain. Despite this, research shows a steady rise in exploitation for the purpose of prostitution, facilitated inter alia by the development of new communication technologies, particularly the Internet. This exploitation affects younger and younger children and affects both boys and girls.
According to the Terminology guidelines for the protection of children from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, child sexual exploitation in travel and tourism is the sexual exploitation of a child, by tourists, travelers and visitors, as nationals as foreigners.
This type of exploitation does not only occur in an international context (which implies to cross a border): children can be sexually exploited in the context of travel and tourism at a national level.
Why don’t we use the term “sex tourism”?
“Sex tourism” is frequently used as a synonym for child sexual exploitation in travel and tourism. This term is shorter but inadequate.
Child sexual exploitation can not be a type of tourism. By speaking of child sexual exploitation in travel and tourism, we highlight the fact that the child is victim of sexual exploitation, in the particular context of travel and tourism.
Besides, talking about child sexual exploitation in the context of travel and tourism covers the notion of “tourism”, fairly traditional, but also of “travel” (for example a business trip, a cultural exchange or a humanitarian volunteering). These situations have in common to give some anonymity (the person is out of sight of his family and his community) in a context of economic power (the person has a feeling of impunity).
Which countries are affected by this phenomenon?
Historically, child sexual exploitation in travel and tourism was known in South-East Asia. ECPAT meant by the way, at the moment of its creation, “End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism”.
The Asian tourism hotspots such as Thailand or the Philippines are still particularly known for hosting this scourge. But, since the Stockholm Declaration and Agenda for action in 1996, the world has changed: borders have opened, travel and tourism have expanded, and tourists, travellers and tourism stakeholders have multiplied.
Nowadays, therefore, all countries can be affected by the phenomenon, on all continents. Thailand, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Dominican Republic, Kenya, Morocco, Madagascar and several countries from Eastern Europe are so many countries where children are victims of sexual exploitation in the context of travel and tourism.
Online child sexual exploitation is a crime committed by offenders who use information and communication technologies (ICT) and/or the Internet to exploit children.
The expansion of ICTs has made of the online child sexual exploitation a growing phenomenon. New technologies are now an integral part of children’ lives and play a key role in their social and educational development.
These new tools require a responsible learning, especially since children are particularly vulnerable in this environment where reality and virtual mix. Thus, it is important to remember that despite the “virtual” nature of the acts committed, real children are behind the screens and are potentially victims of exploitation; not only at a “T” moment but over a much longer time since the images can be shared ad infinitum: this is what we call “secondary victimization”.
Online child sexual exploitation remains a very generic category of sexual exploitation, composed of distinct forms of sexual exploitation. It is not exhaustive but includes sexting, sexualized images of children as well as materials of child sexual abuse/exploitation, grooming or live streaming.
Materials of child sexual abuse/exploitation
The term materials of child sexual abuse/exploitation is still underused as explained in the Terminology guidelines for the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. It now tends to replace the references made to “child pornography” or “cyber child pornography”; in order not to associate the terms “pornography” and “child”.
Pornography is used to talk about sexual activities between consenting adults for the purpose of sexual pleasure. But, sexually exploiting or abusing a child could never be associated to this notion. This could even lead (even unconsciously) to legitimize the unlawful act, to imply that the child may be consenting or to minimize what the child has suffered. By choosing to speak of “materials of child sexual abuse/exploitation”, we place the act of abuse/exploitation at the center of the sentence.
The term “child pornography” is still used, especially in a legal context.
Grooming is used to talk about the sollicitation of children for sexual purposes. In the online environment, it means that an offender will get in contact with a child in order to obtain sexual favors from him (via a webcam for instance) or in order to meet him/her offline to abuse him/her sexually.
Live streaming is the live transmission of child sexual abuses, usually via a streaming platform (such as Skype) which allows the offender to participate in the act when it occurs.
These are crimes on children difficult to identify and prosecute because if the abuser does not record the abuse, no trace is found.
The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (Palermo Protocol) defines trafficking as follows (Article 3.a): “[t]he recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs”.
In international law, trafficking is thus established by the accumulation of three elements:
- an action (recruit, host, transport …)
- a means (threat, constraint, abuse of authority …). This is not applicable if the victim is a child.
- a purpose: the exploitation (of the child). This is the main distinguishing feature between trafficking and the sale of children.
When the victim of trafficking is a minor, the means become indifferent and the question of whether or not trafficking has occurred will depend solely on the action and the purpose of exploitation (Palermo Protocol, Article 3.c.). In French law, the conviction is also heavier for traffickers.
Trafficking and Smuggling
There are three main differences between trafficking and smuggling:
- The first difference is the transnational nature of the crime. The smuggling of people is necessarily transnational since it involves crossing a border. Trafficking can be transnational, but it can also be national and involve only one country. For example, a French victim can be exploited in France by French people.
- The second difference is consent. The smuggled person who passes from one country to another has generally consented to his/her displacement. In trafficking, the person has not consented to his/her exploitation, either because a means or circumstance renders his consent null and void, or because the victim is a minor and cannot consent to his/her own exploitation.
- Finally, the third difference is exploitation. In smuggling, there is not necessarily the purpose of exploiting the person who illegally crosses the border. Once he/she has crossed, the act is finished.
Trafficking can exist in combination of smuggling: one person can be a victim of trafficking before and/or after crossing the border.
The reality of trafficking
- Trafficking exists all around the world. France, where many networks are present, does not escape from this reality. Victims can be from any country, including a country of the European Union and therefore from France.
- According to a UNODC report, nearly one-third of the world’s victims of trafficking are children.
- Contrary to popular belief, trafficking concerns girls as well as boys, regardless of the type of exploitation.
- The figures are clear and irrevocable: minor victims of trafficking are becoming younger. For example, a study conducted by the ONDRP and MIPROF in 2015 found that some Nigerian child victims identified in situations of sexual exploitation in France were only 11 years old…