Southeast Asia is thought to be the hotbed of child prostitution. According to UNISEF, more than one million children in Asia including Thailand, Philippines, and India, have been sold to brothels or street pimps for sexual exploitation. In the meantime, ECPAT (Ending Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking), a nongovernmental organization, argues that the number of children involved in prostitution is much higher. ECPAT estimates indicate that 20% of 20 million of children in India alone are part of the commercial sexual exploitation network.
According to ECPAT, about 100 thousand children are forced into child prostitution in Taiwan. Child prostitutes are in demand in other counties too. Venezuela has around 40 thousand underage prostitutes; there are approximately 25 thousands prostitutes aged 12 to 17 in the Dominican Republic; Peru has about 500 thousand child prostitutes, another 500 thousand child prostitutes are in Brazil; Canada has 200 thousand child prostitutes. From 300 thousand to 600 thousand of 2 million prostitutes in the USA are children and teenagers under 18. Most of them are under the category of street prostitutes.
The above statistics clearly indicate that child prostitution has become a global problem. As for Russia, it is hard to come up with accurate numbers regarding child prostitution. The numbers do vary depending on the definition of the phenomenon, measuring instruments, and a current government policy. One can only make a judgment by putting together pieces of information reported in different cities and regions of Russia. For example, the Moscow police said that more than 1,000 children had been involved in prostitution activities in 1993. According to data released by the police of the Seaside Region, child prostitutes accounted for 25% of all prostitutes taken into custody in 2000. The proportion increased to around 27% in 2001.
The brothel keepers claim they fear criminal prosecution for recruiting the young for sex industry, and therefore they try not to use underage sex workers. However, this claim seems to be rather dubious. The “fresh supplies” are always in high demand. Some of the madams admit that “the underage girls work for us, no doubt about it. We just close our eyes to the situation. Besides, the passport is not always required for their work, and some of the girls look much older beyond their years.” Citing the law enforcement agencies, some newspapers report that about 40 clandestine brothels operate in the city of Vladivostok. Those brothels are reported to supply underage prostitutes of both sexes aged 14 and above.
Child prostitution is a global phenomenon these days. Children are mostly trafficked for sexual exploitation from Eastern Europe, North Africa, and Ukraine. Western Europe, the United States, United Arab Emirates and New Zealand are among the major consumers. Russia is both a supplier and producer. Sociologists put the blame on the low standard of living. Psychiatrists say pedophiles are to blame. According to Lyudmila Narusova, a member of the Upper House of Russian Parliament, the problem stems from a lack of comprehensive legislation on the web sites.
Indeed, 75% of all child pornography materials are available via the Internet today’s Russia. The majority of the above web sites are designed for foreigners, with all sorts of information posted in English. Those dealing in child pornography use the Russian web at no risk of being prosecuted.
In Russia, the web sites with child porno content are developed by young people in their twenties.
The web pimps often do not have any equipment or venue for taking photos and making videos featuring underage sex workers, they simply spread somebody else’s materials over the Net. Serious dealers work in a real time mode, using the Internet for picking merchandise in advance. A child ordered via the Internet can be trafficked from any CIA country. Criminals could use fake ID for delivering the child to a customer. Alternatively, arrangements for the purpose of sex tourism could be made for a foreign pedophile.
Street children and children from dysfunctional families are often targeted by those dealing in the recruitment and purchase of children for sexual exploitation. Such children can be easily intinidated, pimps give them no money for services rendered, only food and occasional toys and clothing. As they become older, child prostitutes end up in regular brothels and red-light streets.
According to UNISEF, a night with an underage virgin will cost from $500 to $1,000 in St. Petersburg. The services of an underage prostitute will cost from 1,500 rubles to 15,000 rubles; in a Moscow or St. Petersburg brothel depending on the class of a brothel. Oral sex with a street chill will be in a range from 100 rubles to 500 rubles; intercourse will cost from 200 rubles to 750 rubles, a night will cost from 500 rubles to 800 rubles, the price may go up to 1,000 rubles on rare occasions.
Sex services provided by street children living on a major Moscow railroad station will cost 300 rubles. Sometimes they accept food as payment. A child will be paid from 300 rubles to 4,000 rubles for participation in the making of a sex video for further distribution via the Internet. A child will get $200 for a video involving intercourse. By the way, the owner of a porn web site can make as much as $30,000 a month. The services by a child prostitute based in the center of Moscow will cost from $50 to $100 an hour. On an average, a prostitute will get 735 rubles for her services, the rest of the money will be pocketed by a pimp.
A night with a male underage prostitute is the costliest entertainment in Moscow; a healthy child (not a drug addict) can cost up to several hundreds of dollars. The price of sex with a 16-year-old teen will be in a range between $40 and $50.
The above situation has become a frightening reality of our time.
To be honest, the methods used by the authorities of all levels for fighting child prostitution are ineffective, by and large. Local authorities cannot properly supervise dysfunctional families. As a result, children will be either fall victim to recurrent domestic violence or take to the streets and become dependent on adults who recruit them for the commercial sexual exploitation.
The large number of child prostitutes all over the world is evidence of high demand for child prostitution. The adults who choose children as sexual objects are only part of the problem. Some customers believe that they can be protected against HIV and STDs by having sex with children. The concept is totally wrong. By comparison to adults, children are more susceptible to catching the above diseases because they cannot appreciate the need to practice save sex. Even if children are aware of safe sex practices, they are weaker and cannot physically oppose adults driven by sexual desires.
Neither law enforcement agencies nor psychologists or doctors will be able to tackle the problem as long as such a kind of “merchandise” is in demand and sexual exploitation is part of organized crime. Taking steps to uproot the origins of the problem i.e. those who make big money out of sexual exploitation is the most important task. Yet the implementation of the job does not seem very feasible. A brothel shut down by the authorities is likely to rise from ashes somewhere else.
Translated by Guerman Grachev