Children are being trafficked and sexually exploited in every region of the world, both online and offline. They are taken out of their protective environment, they are recruited, transported, transferred and harboured, which has devastating consequences. 

While exact figures are difficult to find, the ILO estimates there are more than 40 million victims of trafficking globally every year and almost 20% are children. However, in some parts of Africa and the Mekong region, children are the majority of victims. UNODC figures indicate that of those victims detected by law enforcement, almost 80% were being trafficked for sexual exploitation. Although victims are predominantly women and girls, men and boys are affected as well. There are no exact figures, but according to UNODC in 2019, the majority of trafficked children were sexually exploited, and one in three known trafficking victims were children.

The majority of trafficking victims are women and girls, but men and boys are exploited too. The most common form of human trafficking is sexual exploitation.

Trafficking for marriage is a growing concern. For instance, the last few years have seen a spike in the number of Chinese “wedding brokers” crossing the border into Viet Nam and kidnapping brides – many of whom are underage.

What is the difference between sale and trafficking_

Children can also be “sold” into sexual exploitation without being trafficked. This often happens in countries where poverty and exclusion predominate and is associated with other forms of forced child labour, such as selling children into domestic service. Offenders often come from the victim’s circle of trust, including their own family, who may see the sale of a child as a way to escape destitution. Hubs for the sale of children include South and Southeast Asia, where many of the children sexually exploited through prostitution are sold into the business.

ECPAT - online child sexual exploitation

We work to produce best practice guidelines, research and resources to raise awareness of the issue of the sale and trafficking of children for sexual purposes. We contribute to regional policy papers and legislation about trafficking, we attend regional and global events to advocate on behalf of vulnerable children.