& CENTRAL ASIA REGIONAL CONSULTATION IN PREPARATION FOR
Stock: Progress in Europe and Central Asia since the first
World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children
commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) is a complex and
diverse problem, with clear regional, national and even local
variations and specificities. It
is clear, therefore, that no single synthesis analysis can do
justice to the whole range of issues related to CSEC in all the
countries of Europe and Central Asia.
52 countries comprising Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe (CEE),
the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Baltic States–
all loosely grouped as ‘Europe and Central Asia’ for the needs
of this paper -- offer a rich and wide-ranging diversity of
languages, cultures, political and legal systems and economic
Western Europe are affluent industrial countries alongside poorer
neighbours, small and large nations in terms of land mass and/or
population. In the CEE/CIS
and Baltic States, these differences are also present, but these
sub-regions are also characterized by more than a decade of sweeping
economic and political transition, in some cases war and conflict,
all of which variously play a part in the position and status of
children, their life chances and life experiences.
the recent reworking of political, economic and social links between
North and South, East and West Europe has done, however, is open up
dialogue and exchange about human rights issues, including
children’s and women’s rights.
Knowledge about abuse and violence has also increased,
revealing similarities and differences across Europe and Central
Europe is a source of sex tourists, has high levels of consumption
of child pornography and expanding sex industries increasingly
populated by foreign nationals. Western Europe is
also a region where children and young people are exploited
in their home countries. Since
the fall of the Berlin Wall, the CEE/CIS states have become source
and transit countries for trafficking.
Sex industries are burgeoning in much of the region.
critical elements in CSEC are the status of children, and having the
misfortune to meet someone who facilitates entry into prostitution
or pornography. This person may be another child, but most often is
a pimp, recruiter, trafficker or customer.
In some cases a child is prostituted by someone who is
already sexually abusing the child, including members of their
families. Certain other factors seem common to many sexually
exploited children: having lived in a children’s home; being
homeless/living on the street; running away because of sexual abuse
and/or violence at home. These
factors are common across European countries and offer potential
intervention points for those working to prevent exploitation from
contextual elements adding to the vulnerability of children are
poverty and discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, disability,
or citizenship status. In many of the transition countries, for
example, high levels of unemployment, inadequate skills and training
for available employment opportunities, and poor preparation of
children and young people for work and social integration, all
increase pressures on children to seek alternative ways to earn
money for their family or their future.
This may make them more vulnerable to pimps and recruiters
who may exploit them in commercial sex work or encourage them – or
indeed force them – to move within the country or across borders
where perceived returns are greater.
legal and irregular migration, family breakdown, rampant consumerism
and high-risk lifestyle behaviour including drug and alcohol use are
also major causes for increased vulnerability to exploitation and to
movement into high-risk situations.
In the transition countries, the more than one million
children who are growing up in institutions, rather than with their
families, are at particular risk as they exit unprepared into
societies that are equally unprepared to integrate them.
some of these children and young people may relocate and become sex
workers ‘willingly’, they have no idea of the nature of the
exploitation that awaits them, nor of the slavery-like conditions in
which they may find themselves,[ii]
and the concept of ‘willingness’ is in any case not relevant in
the several instruments of international law that now provide a
framework for action against CSEC.
conflict also appears to be connected to increases in CSEC, for a
number of reasons. Not only does conflict make children’s survival
more fragile due to factors such as the break-up of families,
displacement, and interrupted schooling and training for employment,
it also brings children into contact with military forces –
national, para-military and expatriate – a known factor associated
with expansion in local sex industries.
trends and knowledge
the time of the Stockholm Congress, the focus of concern centred on
sex tourism and child pornography.
Since that time, the trafficking of women and children for
sexual exploitation (and other human rights abuses including forced
labour, begging, and in some cases organ transplantation) has taken
centre stage. This has
been the result of a number of shifts in the pattern both of
‘demand’ and ‘supply’.
What is clear is that, as a result of increased public and
governmental awareness and intolerance of CSEC, protection of
children has improved in some areas of the region. There are indications that more stringent laws, and better
implementation and policing, may have made some countries less
‘profitable’ for exploiters and less ‘safe’ for abusers.
demand has developed, the ‘supply’ of children and women
vulnerable to trafficking has increased as economic differentials
have widened further, globalization has increased consumer pressures
on people – especially young people – in the less affluent
countries of Europe and Central Asia, and continuing conflict in
some sub-regions has made relocation, even if it includes coercive
labour and illegal status, seem a viable alternative.[iii]
people movements involved are both domestic and cross-border, within
the CEE/CIS and into Western Europe.
The numbers involved are considerable, although accurate
estimates remain illusive (see box).
Among the main source countries most frequently mentioned in
research and media accounts are Albania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania,
Russia and Ukraine; initial destination countries cited most often
are Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Turkey, with movement from there into
the sex industries of Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland and the
United Kingdom. Other
routes link the Baltic and Nordic states.
These processes are also linked to the expansion of sex
industries in Western and Eastern Europe,[iv]
and many women and girls are prostituted in transit, primarily
within the Balkans.[v]
most trafficking into the commercial sex trade involves young adult
women, minors are also exploited, including some children under 16.
For example, recent research from the Kyrgyz Republic and
Armenia notes demand for girls from the age of 15 in some of the
Gulf States (the most common destination countries for those
trafficked from Central Asia), where after this age girls are
The majority of customers for child sex in every country are local
men, but the presence of foreign tourists, businessmen and even
peacekeeping forces has been cited as a contributory factor.
trafficking pattern has been identified alongside the increase in
unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in western European countries.
Traffickers have taken advantage of this movement to exploit
on the prostitution of local children has increasingly revealed the
extent to which in-country trafficking (often in the form of taking
children to towns and cities they are unfamiliar with, putting them
on the street and telling them they will be collected when they have
earned a certain amount of money) is used as a strategy to control
them. There are variations across Europe in the extent to which
minors are visible in street prostitution or are invisible since
their sexual exploitation takes place in off-street locations such
as brothels, flats and hotels.
about the nature and scope of trafficking has improved in recent
years, but the extent to which it is dominated by organized crime,
or looser networks, or a combination of both is still unclear.
Increased understanding of trafficking has exposed the
underbelly of the sex industry: the brutality and viciousness of
many pimps and brothel owners; the interest among customers for
unsafe sex; and the demand across Europe for sex with women and
children who are ‘other-ized’.[vii]
The complete disregard for children’s rights on the part of
exploiters was graphically illustrated in a UK newspaper report
based on an interview with a pimp who trafficked girls from South
He stated that the girls were ‘worn out’ after three
months, using the term ‘disintegrate’, and implied that the lack
of condom use is due to the girls’ ignorance -- ignorance no doubt
that neither he nor his customers choose to correct.
relation to child pornography and child prostitution, European
research has shown that these forms of sexual abuse are more
widespread than previously thought;[ix]
that they are not the preserve of ‘paedophiles’ but may be
linked to both sexual abuse in the family and to prostitute and
pornography use more generally.
Evidence is also emerging of sex tourism routes within
Europe, with a number of cities emerging as places where male and
female minors are exploited. A
recent report from Italy links sex tourism and trafficking through
‘sex cruises’ between the mainland and Sardinia and Elba.[x]
the recommendations from the Stockholm Congress, and considerable
efforts by researchers, there are still no accurate measurements of
either the extent of sexual exploitation, or of cases that are the
subject of official intervention by either law enforcement or social
welfare agencies in individual countries and for Europe and Central
The ‘hidden’ nature of CSEC is a specific challenge to research
and data collection, as a result of which even the most scrupulous
investigation probably understates the magnitude of the problem.
the Stockholm Congress, considerable activity at the regional,
sub-regional and intergovernmental levels is evident; a number of
countries have taken various actions; and NGOs have continued to
innovate. There has
also been progress in terms of research focused on sexual
Stockholm Agenda for Action set a number of goals including: the
development of national Plans of Action; the establishment of
national focal points and compilation of disaggregated data; review
of laws to ensure children are protected; better law enforcement;
and the development of sanctuary and support for exploited children.
the Council of Europe and the European Union have developed strong
and incremental responses to the sexual exploitation of children,
echoing and extending the Stockholm Agenda.
The Council of Europe Recommendation on the Protection of
Children against Sexual Exploitation was adopted by the Committee of
Ministers on 31 October 2001. The
Council of Europe International Cyber-crime Convention (open for
signature in November 2001) is an important step in tackling the
growth not only of on-line pornography but also the use of the
Internet for other forms of CSEC such as on-line ‘stalking’ of
children by those who wish to abuse them, for example by meeting
them in Internet chat rooms. Indeed,
the inclusion of measures to combat CSEC in organized crime
strategies, instruments and actions more generally is an important
development since Stockholm.
this regard, the European Commission has produced two draft
framework decisions, one on trafficking in human beings and one on
sexual exploitation of children.
Taken together, if implemented at the national level, they
would constitute a coherent and co-ordinated response to CSEC under
the banner of combating transnational organized crime.
European bodies have also supported capacity building: the Council
of Europe through its work on governance and human rights in the CEE
countries; the European Commission through the Daphne and STOP
funding lines that have supported research, innovative projects and
direct action. In
addition, the European Commission’s work post-Stockholm has
included Europe-wide information campaigns against sex tourism,
Internet content research, and a number of Joint Actions that commit
Member States to harmonizing laws relating to sexual exploitation
Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe and the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have played an important
role, supporting the development of work on trafficking, and the
OSCE has additionally been pro-active in programming in Central Asia
and the Caucasus. The
IOM has also been pro-active, initiating research, capacity building
at governmental and NGO levels, and conducting awareness-raising and
prevention campaigns. IOM
is also the key agency involved in return and reintegration
programmes. Work has
also taken place within the ASEM group and among the Baltic states.
the Stability Pact framework, UNICEF has taken the lead for
advocacy, awareness raising and research related to prevention of
trafficking. Jointly with national partners in South-Eastern Europe,
it is promoting life-skills education and developing standards,
monitoring mechanisms and referral systems to address violence
against women and children. In eight countries of Central and
Eastern Europe, UNICEF has provided initial support for development
of national Plans of Action against sexual exploitation of children.
the Governments of Germany and Bosnia Herzegovina, UNICEF also
helped organize the first-ever intergovernmental conference on
Children in Europe and Central Asia, in Berlin in May 2001, as part
of regional preparations for the United Nations General Assembly
Special Session on Children. The 52 countries present adopted a
final statement including the commitment to take ‘all necessary
measures’ to end CSEC, and adopt an attitude of
‘zero-tolerance’ for this kind of abuse.
all countries in Europe and Central Asia have ratified the 1989
United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
and a majority ILO Convention 182 on the worst forms of child
labour, very few
ratified the CRC’s Optional Protocol against sexual exploitation
of children or the trafficking Protocol supplementary to the UN
Convention on Transnational Organized Crime.
Only 14 countries in the region have a specific Plan of
Action against sexual exploitation of children -- almost half
produced in 2000/2001 – and few have established a specific
government focal point for CSEC issues.
The lack of progress on data collection has already been
noted. Where Plans of
Action do exist, their status and substance vary
– only a minority use the Stockholm Agenda for Action as
their framework, and almost half remain at the level of either
reporting on what has been done, or of vague aspirational
statements. The most
likely to have effect are those that set out principles and future
actions with short- and long-term time frames and allocation of
has been significant legal reform post-Stockholm, with almost half
the countries in the region enacting new or enforcing existing
legislation on child pornography, and a third on child prostitution,
trafficking and extra-territorial jurisdiction.
Some of this legislation has been comprehensive, linked to
children’s rights; other more limited reforms have been prompted
as issues were raised on international and national political
agendas. The much
sought-for harmonization has, however, not yet been achieved, with
variations in ages for protection remaining, and differences
relating to which offences are included, and to sentencing.
This fact alone militates against one of the underlying
principles of the Stockholm Agenda: that children be defined as
those under 18, and that sexually exploited children be defined and
treated in law as victims, not perpetrators of crime. Europol has
compiled a manual of national child pornography legislation, and a
plan for something similar with respect to trafficking for states in
the Balkans, that will include a best practice guide for law
enforcement, will be compiled in 2002.[xii]
with respect to law enforcement has been mixed, and varies within as
well as between countries. There
is no doubt that there have been a number of successful high profile
operations which have broken and prosecuted transnational networks
involved in child pornography, child prostitution and trafficking.
There have also been a number of extra-territorial
prosecutions, notably in Germany, but also in Switzerland, Sweden
and the UK. Making the
possession of child pornography illegal has also facilitated
prosecutions; importantly in this instance without the need to rely
on children’s testimony. However,
law enforcement officers and NGOs continue to note gaps in
legislation, lack of resources, evidential requirements that
disadvantage children, and lack of judicial awareness as barriers to
investigation and prosecution.
The deployment of specialist teams appears to increase
effective law enforcement, but they remain the exception rather than
the rule across Europe and Central Asia.[xiii]
are also positive developments within Europe with respect to the
tourist and Internet industries.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have proved willing to
discuss the issue of child pornography, but progress towards any
consistent policy has been slow and uneven.[xiv]
Independent hotlines have been established in many countries
and a European network, INHOPE, has been set up to link and
strengthen them. The
involvement of the private sector has primarily been through
voluntary agreements to combat CSEC within their operations. While
voluntary involvement is welcome, the possibilities for external
assessment and evaluation remain limited.
role of NGOs has been crucial in promoting the issue of sexual
exploitation and in developing innovative responses.
The NGO sector has focused on direct support for children and
young people, with Barnardos in the UK developing innovative work
enabling girls to exit prostitution, Save the Children Norway
continuing efforts against child pornography, and a range of NGOs in
the Balkans establishing shelters for victims of trafficking.
The EU Daphne Programme, for example, has funded some 250 NGO
projects since 1996, involving more than 600 NGOs and covering pilot
projects developing new research methodologies, training and
awareness-raising materials, direct work with children victims and
activists, and crossing sectoral and national boundaries.[xv]
is especially evident post-Stockholm has been the emergence of NGO
networks and networking, partly encouraged and enabled by the Daphne
and STOP Programmes. The
‘Crossing Borders’ project has linked NGOs working on
trafficking across the Baltic.
This and other transnational projects have made clear the
extent to which building capacity in child protection generally is a
core necessity in the CEE/CIS countries.
A number of these networks have developed websites through
which their work and the lessons learned can be shared with wider
number of NGOs, especially in CEE/CIS countries with respect to
trafficking, have begun taking the issue of sexual exploitation into
schools and work with young people. This has taken the form of games, plays and case studies that
address issues of recruitment and myths about the sex industry.
IOM Romania organized debates and discussions for 6,000 15-19
year olds at summer camps in 2001, and will use the young people’s
responses in planning the next stages of its awareness-raising
campaigns. So far,
however, awareness raising has focused on the potential for becoming
a victim of sexual exploitation, and very little work has taken
place on discouraging young men from involvement in either
recruitment or demand.
number of innovative attempts at targeting demand have begun in the
CEE/CIS states, for example organized by La Strada or IOM.
Powerful messages are employed, such as ‘You pay for a
night; she pays with her life’.
There may be some transferable lessons here, and pulling
together the experiences and evaluations would be an important
contribution. Recently a UK-based NGO, the Catholic Institute for
International Relations, organized a highly successful European
ideas-sharing tour for a group of Latin American men who have
devised new methods to effect behaviour change among men in that
region, where ‘machismo’ is a major factor in tolerance of
support work and research by NGOs have extended knowledge.
Two examples are work by social services in the UK and Terre
des Hommes in the Netherlands, unpicking the particular ways in
which ritual was used to control West African girls, and through
this finding ways to prevent them from disappearing from reception
centres into the hands of traffickers.[xvi]
A study of trafficking in children in Albania discovered an
unintended consequence of raised awareness: the prevalence of
abduction of girls in one area resulted in some parents stopping
sending girls to school, especially where it involved a long walk.[xvii]
This illustrates how protection activities need to be
carefully planned and evaluated, so that the long-term impact on the
child can be measured; in this case, for example, the loss of
schooling is likely to increase the vulnerability of girls in the
Challenges for the future
overview has revealed both progress and the lack of it, innovation
and inaction. The most
obvious challenge for the future is to translate the aspirations in
the Stockholm Agenda for Action and subsequent European policy
documents into action. Taking
stock of recent responses has revealed a number of recurring
problems and remaining challenges: these are outlined below as
matters needing further attention in the region.
Limited implementation of international and national
legislation and policies, and the lack of an effective monitoring
Inadequate targeted research using appropriate
methodologies and agreed working definitions and parameters to allow
comparability across countries/sub-regions.
Lack of harmonization in legal statute and child
A continuing challenge in the collection, collation
and publishing of data on sexual exploitation cases.
Inadequate evaluation, measurement and review of
programmes and interventions, including evaluation of impact on the
children beneficiaries or intermediary target groups.
A tendency to react to shocking cases, or
extremes-based media coverage, rather than developing integrated and
coherent approaches that focus on prevention of CSEC and
reintegration of exploited children.
A reactive approach from all sectors, responding to
issues that develop a high profile, which results in a piecemeal
response, and a lack of sustained policy and practice development.
tendency to separate sexual exploitation from areas to which it is
inextricably connected: child protection generally, violence and
discrimination against women and girls, HIV/AIDS and sexual
behaviour, consumerism, poverty and social development generally.
This paper was drafted for UNICEF by Professor Liz Kelly, Child
and Woman Abuse Studies Unit, University of North London, with
additional input from Dr June Kane, UNICEF Consultant, and
represents the views of the authors.
The notion of ‘willingness’ is extremely complex, since
trickery, deceit and coercion often accompany promises made to
vulnerable children and most, in any case, have no idea of the
hazardous realities of sexual exploitation and illegal
migration. It is in
this spirit that the Protocol
to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons,
Especially Women and Children,
supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime stipulates
that any movement of minors that results in exploitation or
involves deceit or trickery is, by nature, an illegal act of
short, the concept of ‘willingness’ does not apply.
It remains to be seen how the current emergency in Afghanistan
will play out for the young people who flee that country and
those in neighbouring countries.
Their situation contains elements of vulnerability to
trafficking that have been identified elsewhere: family
disruption, lack of basic necessities, dislocation, interrupted
school or training, lack of access to the job market or to
social welfare services, health needs etc.
Professor Julia O’Connell Davidson has noted that the
commercial sexual exploitation of children in prostitution –
in brothels and on the streets – is generally an extension of
the adult sex sector and that a general growth in adult
prostitution will contribute to increased CSEC. See The Sex Exploiter,
theme paper for the 2nd World Congress against
Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, Yokohama, Japan,
17-20 December 2001, on the Congress website: www.focalpointngo.org/yokohama
See, for example, Koci, H (ed), 2000, Through
the Traffic of Women, Vlore, Albania, Agim Celibashi.
See, IOM Yerevan, 2001, Trafficking in Women and Children from
the Republic of Armenia, unpublished report; Professional Manger
Consulting Firm, 2000, Research on Trafficking in Migrants (Kygryz
Republic, 1999), Bishkek, IOM.
This phrase is used by Julia O’Connell Davidson to describe
the way abusers attempt to justify their actions by measuring
them against societal norms and transferring blame for perceived
ab-normal actions to the children themselves.
To do this, they seek out or just classify the children
they abuse as ‘others’ – sometimes as a result of their
ethnic origin, sometimes because they are poor and so
‘different’, sometimes based on physical characteristics.
The Observer, 24
See See Rhetorics and
Realities: Sexual Exploitation of Children Across Europe, 2000
(Liz Kelly and Linda Regan, London, CWASU)
BBC Online, 9 April, 2001.
This project will be managed jointly by UNDP and the Romanian
government, and is funded by USAID.
For more on child pornography in general, see Child Pornography, one of six theme papers produced for the 2nd
World Congress (website as above).
Child Trafficking in
Albania (Daniel Renton, 2001, Save the Children UK).