Jan 272004
 
Authors: Meg Burd

The growing global problem of child trafficking and sex

tourism

“It’s the worst kind of human exploitation imaginable,” says

Secretary of State Colin Powell. “It’s a sin against humanity and

it is a horrendous crime.” The crime of which Colin Powell is

speaking is child sex trafficking, a horrific and growing problem

all across the world. “Each year, by some estimates,” says NBC’s

Dateline, “hundreds of thousands of girls and boys are bought, sold

or kidnapped and then forced to have sex with grown men.”

In the recent interview with Secretary Powell, Chris Hansen of

Dateline focused particularly on the issue of the exploitation of

children in Cambodia. During an investigative report in the village

of Svay Pak in Cambodia, Dateline and human rights investigators

uncovered “Children, some as young as 5 years old … being sold as

slaves for sex.” As the investigation uncovered, many of the men

who “bought” these girls were in fact American sex tourists who

went to Svay Pak specifically with the heinous and disgusting goal

of engaging in sexual activity with very young children.

This deplorable situation of exploitation and abuse, as

uncovered by Dateline, is apparently not unique to Cambodia. Bob

Woodruff of ABC News discusses this terrible crime of children

being exploited for sex in Albania as well: “In the tiny and very

poor villages of Fushara in northern Albania, the girls are

disappearing… It happens almost every day.” In Albania, as is

happening in many of the economically disadvantaged countries in

Eastern Europe, young girls are being either kidnapped or tricked

into going with people who promise them jobs in other countries.

Stolen from their families, trafficked illegally across borders and

forced to have sex with men under threat of physical violence or

blackmail, Woodruff says that there are about 300,000 Albanian

prostitutes and most of these are children.

Accounts of prostitution of children and sex tourism can even be

found closer to home. In a report in National Geographic, Andrew

Cockburn found “young girls … enslaved in areas like San Jose’s

Gringo Gulch, where a lot of American sex tourists go for a ‘good

time.'” Even here in America, the International Relief Organization

and the nonprofit children’s rights group Children of the Night

estimate that there are 300,000 child prostitutes working in the

United States.

“We have exploitation in our own country,” agrees Powell.

“Thousands of children are victimized by this horrible con game

every year,” states Children of the Night, and it appears that this

number (disturbingly) will continue to grow unless fierce and

effectual prosecution of both those selling, trafficking and paying

for sex with children is stepped up both nationally and

internationally.

Currently, the government is indeed taking steps to fight this

horrific and disgusting crime globally, with activities such as the

International Conference “Pathbreaking Strategies in the Global

Fight Against Sex Trafficking,” in which 120 nations participated,

the passage of things such as the Trafficking Protection Act of

2000, international sanctions and many U.N. initiatives in the last

few years.

However, more must be done to stop the pimps and traffickers who

exploit children, as well as the sex tourist predators who seek out

children. “We … need to take a look at ourselves and whether or

not we’re cracking down hard enough on those Americans who do such

things, or people from other countries … who go to such places

… with a certain knowledge that they’ll have a chance to abuse a

child,” says Powell, and he is right.

We must focus our attention on and encourage the government to

amp up its efforts to curtail this global tragedy. No longer must

this be a problem that “nobody wants to recognize, nobody wants to

talk about and everyone wants to cover up,” as Children of the

Night states, but rather one seen as a most horrendous crime

against the children of the world that everyone is committed to

ending.

Meg is a graduate student at CSU. Her column runs every

Wednesday.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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