Children and Prostitution – Part II: 2.Towards a Universal Framework using the Convention on the Rights of the Child

Children and Prostitution – Part II: 2.Towards a Universal Framework using the Convention on the Rights of the Child

Index – Introduction – Part 1 – Part 2 – References – Annotated Bibliography



One of the main conclusions of the literature review is that children’s rights, as provided in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, can be used as the framework for both understanding and measuring the commercial sexual exploitation of children in the broadest possible context. The relevant articles of the Convention should not be limited to Article 34 or even to other articles relating to protection from abuse and exploitation. If eradication of sexual exploitation is the aim, then the maximum force of articles should be brought into action, in order to ensure that eradication campaigns do not consist merely of declarations of intent, legislation, prosecutions, rescue operations and rehabilitation of victims. Protection of children from sexual exploitation requires making use of all relevant articles.

Although attempts to monitor the Convention on the Rights of the Child began with the idea of developing an article-by-article list of indicators, this has now been abandoned by most workers in this field, in favour of constructing systems of linked indicators, based on clusters of related articles. One way of clustering the articles of the Convention to produce a nationwide monitoring system is already under construction in Vietnam and Nicaragua, as part of the Childwatch International Indicators for Children’s Rights project (Ennew & Miljeteig, 1996). However, in the context of particularly intractable and urgent problems, such as the sexual exploitation of children, articles could be bunched or focused, in order to provide a framework for monitoring a specific issue. Figure 2 shows one way in which this might be achieved. The fundamental articles in this figure appear in the shaded portions. These are basic to understanding not only the commercial sexual exploitation of children, but also the contexts in which it takes place. For this reason Article 34 is not the first to appear in this figure. It is preceded by articles relating to the definition of childhood, children’s identity and dignity, the very aspects that are violated when sexual exploitation takes place, indeed the reasons why all ‘protection’ articles are necessary.

The unshaded portion of the figure contains a groups of articles that are linked to the fundamental articles in various ways, mostly related to provision. The eradication of sexual exploitation cannot take place without monitoring the impact of service provision of many kinds, including special programmes of prevention and rehabilitation.

Putting such a framework into operation first entails attention to a critical aspect of indicator development, the definition of operational concepts. It is impossible to measure a phenomenon, unless you know what it is. Thus, before rushing to count the numbers of children engaged in any activity, it is vital to spend some time thinking about the ideas involved. For this reason, the right-hand side of the figure contains lists of ideas that have to be defined so that the phenomena involved can be measured. The beauty of such a scheme is that, although the framework is universal, the definition of ideas can be culturally appropriate without violating the basic principles of the Convention.

Figure 2: Using the Convention of the Rights of the Child as a framework for measuring and monitoring the commercial sexual exploitation of children

Articles Ideas
1, 2, 8,16 Definition of child, children’s dignity, nondiscrimination, identity, respect for privacy
34, 35, (11,16, 17(e), 19, 32, 33, 36) Prostitution, traffic, pornography
12 (3,13,14,15) Consent, power, maturity and the best interests of the child
Linked articles, relating to prevention, provision of services and rehabilitation
3, 4, 39 Reasonable expectations about service provision and rehabilitation
5,8, 19, 21,22 Family support
28, 29 Education
26, 27, 30,40 Community and state care
24 Health provision and health education

2.1. Operational definitions

Although it is often claimed that measuring the commercial sexual exploitation is impossible, we would argue that this is an effect of the lack of conceptualisation in the discourse as a whole. Up to this point in time, the main purpose of information gathering on this topic has been advocacy and awareness raising. In view of the fact that 133 nations were represented at the Congress Against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, each making a declaration that acknowledged the existece of a problem in their country, it can be argued that the advocates have met with considerable success. Now is the moment for a new, more accurate form of data collection, that will provide information of sufficient accuracy to develop programmes of prevention, protection, elimination and rehabilitation. Thus the time is ripe for measurement and monitoring. The process of measurement depends less on techniques than on prior work to identify the phenomena involved, and capture their essential features in operational definitions — not definitions for all time but ideas that can be grasped and expressed in measurable terms. The process of ‘measuring the unmeasurable’ is summed up in Box 3.

The method of deriving operational definitions is:

€map ideas in current use;

€compare with the Convention;

€compare with national realities;

€decide on a pragmatic, measurable concept.


Identify the phenomenon

Commercial sexual exploitation of children
‘Capture’ the phenomenon: operational definitions
What is commercial?
What sex acts?
Who exploits whom? How?
What children? (age, gender, ethnicity)
Specify the data
List the data necessary to measure the operational definitions
Test the data
Find which data are available
Research new data
Seek data that are not currently available, using existing routine systems or setting up sites for routine measurement
Construct indicators and use for regular monitoring

This review is not the place to enter into lengthy definitional debates. Nevertheless, as an example of the way in which such debates might proceed, the next part of this text will consider briefly and non-exhaustively some of the aspects necessary to defining two fundamental ideas:

€What the chronological definition childhood means with respect to sexuality and sexual activities;

€The dignity of children.

The sexual age of a child

As all the reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child make clear, although a child is defined by the Convention as a human being under the age of 18 years, this cannot encompass all the milestones of childhood, which take into consideration such aspects as criminal responsibility and minimum age for work. It is the nature of childhood to be a development towards maturity, as explicitly mentioned in Article 12, for example. Sexual maturity is perhaps the most notable milestone of childhood after learning to walk and speak. It is marked by rites of passage both formal and informal throughout the world. Yet the timing of these rites is by no means universal.

One of the earliest considerations of the research for this literature review was the influence of the onset of puberty on the commercial sexual exploitation of children, particularly with the idea of constructing a classificatory matrix to understand better the market for child sexuality (Figure 3).

Figure 3: A possible matrix for classifying the commercial sexual exploitation of children

Male Female

However, this raised the questions ‘Is puberty a useful idea to use? If so, what is the most appropriate body of literature?

It could be argued that the timing of puberty determines the beginning of sexual development, and the start of sexual behaviour, marked by psychological and physiological changes. But a biological determinist model cannot be accepted. Sexual behaviour does not emerge as inevitable result of biological changes and bodily development is also influenced by the social context of childhood and by a child’s experiences. Although the appearance of secondary sexual characteristics, and changes such as the onset of menstruation may ‘mean’ that children are reproductively mature in a physical sense, most social groups require further social proof of reproductive responsibility, such as the skills or means to support the next generation.

In addition, children experience the world as boys and girls and are viewed and treated by others according to their gender. In a sense they grow up in different worlds, so one cannot properly speak of child sexuality, but rather of the development of sexuality (both in the sense of sexual activity and sexual identity) in boys and in girls. The expectations of boys and girls in different societies may entail differential ages for entry into adult reproductive maturity. Thus, for example, where women and children are largely economically dependent on men, a girl’s passage to womanhood may take place far earlier, at a chronological age fairly close to the average age of menarche for her social group. Boys, on the other hand, may have to wait far beyond physical maturity to become recognised as men who can build their own house and support their own wife and children. In many African societies this is explicitly recognised through a system of age sets (see Figure 4).

Figure 4: Ages and stages in the process of becoming an adult are different for boys and girls among the Sereer, West Africa
Name of stage SISSIM
Young of the tribe
Young people
Youth and adults
Age 8 to 11 years 12 to 18 years 19 to 26 years 27 to 35 years
Education about what not to do Preparation for circumcision Circumcision, initiation Marriage
Name of stage FU NDOG WE
Young girls
Age 7 to 10 years 11 to 18 years 19 to 26 years
Education through numerous prohibitions Tattooing Marriage, initiation

(Source: Gravrand, 1981, p. 88)

This basic asymmetry in the social world of boys and girls finds religious sanction in attitudes towards menarche. For instance, in Hinduism, the advent of puberty indicates procreative power or sakti for girls, because blood is in itself seen as the immediate source of health and vitality. In addition, it is connected with unbridled sexual energy. It is believed that women accumulate so much blood (energy) that it needs to be drained regularly or it is believed that even five men cannot hold one woman down. These beliefs also inform the Buddhist tradition. Girls have to learn reticence, undergo privation and practise self sacrifice as they grow into adults.

Hinduism marks the onset of menstruation by a rite of passage consisting of an elaborate ritual of worship. A girl then also has to conform to new forms of dressing, which include the covering of breasts, application of herbs and restrictions in her movements. outside the family home. The blood of a virgin, and her general ‘heated’ state, on account of her purity, is regarded as more dangerous because the force of her blood has not been harmonised with the physis of a male to ‘cool it down’. Thus on account of gender differences and cultural expectations, puberty marks a distinct stage in the life-cycle of a girl who is now regarded, whatever her sexual feelings or desires may be, as a woman whose body is full: a body with special procreative and sexual powers that needed to be controlled. For boys, on the other hand, the process of development is far less clearly focused and is not remarked upon (Carman & Marglin, 1985).

All these considerations, which have their parallels in every society, complicate the notion of puberty and make it a shifting notion that is less than useful for defining the age of sexual maturity, despite almost universal acknowledgement of the physical changes it brings (Richards, 1996).

It would of course be simpler to decide on an arbitrary age below which sexual activities are regarded as unacceptable. However, it would be difficult to arrive at a universally acceptable age and current national legislations varies enormously in this respect. In any case, the grounds for unacceptability might be different, based on moral, physical, psychological or economic factors. What is clear is that the decisions involved are taken by adults who decide at which age sexual activity ceases to be harmful. In the West, this is related to a tendency to distinguish between younger children as victims of sexual activity, while older children’s sexual activities are likely to be viewed as delinquent. Although this kind of pattern could be (and in many cases is) imposed on other societies in the name of children’s rights, it is this kind of action that impedes implementation. Definitional rules that do not make sense tend to be ignored.

One path worth pursuing in the search for the sexual age of children was taken by a research group in Zimbabwe. In focus group discussions with groups of youth, adults and child welfare professionals in urban and rural settings, the researchers focused discussions on the age at which children become mature, particularly sexually, and whether they are able to make their own decisions and are able to act. This approach not only takes into account current debates about informed consent (in many areas of life including sexual activities) it also underlines the value of clustering articles to produce a framework for thought and action with respect to rights. It shows that it is difficult to define sexual maturity without taking into account power and maturity. The results of the discussions are interesting:


i.Rural communities rate children as maturing at earlier ages than urban;
iiProfessionals and youth rate children as maturing earlier than adults;
iiiPhysical maturity is seen to happen earlier than mental maturity in urban areas, and later than mental maturity in rural areas. Rural people generally rate children as becoming mentally mature at much earlier ages than in urban areas;
ivRural groups rate children as able to decide to have sex at much earlier ages than urban people (about five years difference), and youth in both urban and rural areas identify that children are able to decide to have sex at earlier ages than other groups. 
…..The adult groups in urban areas felt girls matured later than boys, but in rural areas the opposite applied. In urban areas signs of maturity were given as the ability to communicate, take on challenges outside the home, be independent, discriminate good from bad and make responsible decisions. In rural areas, similar signs were used, although there was also a strong aspect of the individual’s ability to contribute to household work, farming and other tasks (Loewenson & Chikamba, 1994).

The researchers concluded that:


‘The definition of a “child” is thus a combination of a series of physical, mental, sexual and emotional attributes, in which the family and social environment play a role. the ages given by the groups for moving from childhood to adulthood range from 10 to 24. With respect to sexual issues, the law sets 16 as the age for ability of a child to knowingly give consent to sex: while rural groups generally agree with this age, urban groups felt that 17-22 (or an average of 18) was a more appropriate age’ (ibid).

Dignity and Innocence

Among the first considerations to be taken into account in finding operational concepts to begin the process of measuring and monitoring the commercial sexual exploitation of children are ideas of dignity and innocence, which are implicit in all discourses, but seldom examined. Without making these ideas explicit, and culturally relevant, the enterprise of combatting child sexual exploitation will continue to founder on the quicksands of repetition and the reproduction of exhausted, biased assumptions. Because the Convention on the Rights of the Child is ‘the most detailed and comprehensive of all of the existing international human rights instruments’ (Alston, 1994, p. 1) it has raised particular issues with respect to the application of universal standards. Thus cultural relativism has now become a particularly important issue within human rights debates, no more so than in the area of the sexual exploitation and abuse of children. It can be claimed that


At a certain level, the debate over the nature of the relationship between international or ‘universal’ rights standards and different cultural perspectives can never be resolved’ (ibid, p. 16).

But perspectives on children and childhood are the very basis of culture, because children are always in the process of developing into adults, which means they call into question, by their very existence, what it is to be a human being in terms of any social group. This also reflects on other fundamental aspects of social life, such as sexuality. Thus the exploration of cultural meanings must be the basis of any research, advocacy or monitoring of the commercial sexual exploitation of children. To say this is not to fall into the trap of cultural relativity, which could preclude action and advocacy on behalf of children whose lives are difficult:


Just as culture is not a factor which should be excluded from the human rights equation, so too it must not be accorded the status of a metanorm which trumps rights (ibid, p. 20).

The abuse, exploitation or commercial use of children’s sexuality is a fundamental of their dignity as human beings. The Convention on the Rights of the Child refers to dignity seven times and it has been claimed that it is ‘a concept that permeates the document’ (Melton, 1991, p.344). Nevertheless, it is not defined. A former Special Rapporteur to the United Nations on Sale and Traffic points out that ‘in the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the word ‘dignity’ comes before ‘rights’. This means that human dignity is the foundation and justification of all the rights defined later in the Declaration’ (Fernand Laurent, 1992, p. 36). With respect to pornography he suggests that images published should ‘take account of all aspects of the fundamental principle of respect for human dignity and which safeguards in particular the dignity of women and the innocence of children’ (ibid). This raises the question of whether the dignity of children might perhaps be different from that of adults, and rest in their innocence.

There is no social science discourse on innocence, but there is a considerable body of literature on purity, which is worth exploring in this respect, much of it related to the ideas of honour and shame that appear in many of the regional discourses on child sexual exploitation. The literature from Latin America was referred to earlier, but the distinction between honour and shame is also important in most other parts of the world, although taking on a different texture in different cultures (Budhaghosa, 1923-31; Carman & Marglin, 1985; Delanay, 1991; Fernea, 1985; Gilmore, 1987; Holy, 1991; Mernessi, 1975; Peristiany, 1966; Peristiany & Pitt-Rivers, 1992; Stewart, 1994). Most anthropological writings agree that cultural notions of honour and shame both critically influence, and are informed by, the constructions of sexuality and sexual morality. They often act as the fundamental axis of evaluation. Moreover, such notions are conceptually inseparable from understanding child sex exploitation. Whatever the extent of its significance in each culture, the honour/shame nexus regulates both inter-sex and intra-sex relations and is tied to power. Honour/shame, purity/innocence are mediating concepts by which people and situations are to be judged; and they also provide the terms of reference for determining the acceptable levels of behaviour in other aspects of society. Clearly, traditional beliefs influence notions of honour, shame and purity in most cultures. Further, there is an important correlation between purity and aspects of physical development, such as puberty. This furthers an understanding of puberty in epistemological terms.

There is nothing specifically sexual about the concept of ‘purity’ and yet it is consistently used to refer to sexuality and is inextricably linked with the concept of chastity (Douglas, 1994). Yet defining purity is problematic; does sexual purity mean virginity? Or does it mean keeping to socially sanctioned expressions of sexuality, such as marital fidelity? Does it in fact have nothing to do with sexual purity but is linked to other factors such as menarche? To be pure, especially when talking about either women or children, often means to be sexually untouched but it has further connotations also in that it also means sexually ignorant and passive. Both women and children are supposed to be sexually pure but it takes different forms for both of them and often has very contradictory meanings.

Where morality is derived from Christian tradition, the emphasis on purity is very strong and in these contexts, to be a ‘good’ woman means being a chaste or pure one. The emphasis on virginity for women is strong as are the generally negative connotations of sexuality. St Paul, for example, saw celibacy as a better and purer option than marriage and viewed sex as something to be avoided or if that did not work, to be channelled into marriage.

Orthodox Catholicism equates spiritual purity with intactness. The Virgin Mary, for example, is believed to have given birth without breaking her hymen, therefore she remained virgo intacta, even though she was a mother. While this is obviously impossible to emulate, Catholic women are expected to divorce sexuality from reproduction. Even though the only excuse for sexual behaviour is that it may lead to pregnancy, pure women are not supposed to be sexual or enjoy sexual activity.

This view is not limited to the West or to the Christian tradition. In Thailand, the same division is apparent. Pure women are mothers, impure women are prostitutes. A mother is not supposed to enjoy sex, or to initiate it or to experiment. Men go to prostitutes because they are expected to be the exact opposite of this, sex with them is for enjoyment, not reproduction.

Pure women, in these instances, are women who have sexual knowledge that is kept tightly within the socially sanctioned bonds of marriage. They are not sexually untouched but they are sexually restrained and remain sexually ignorant of any man other than their husbands (Gilmore, 1983).

However, there are contrary currents to this as well in that while women are urged to be sexually faithful, they are often mistrusted and viewed as highly sexual beings whose purity or honour must be kept by their men folk (ibid). Their sexuality is so strong and uncontrollable that it has to be constantly watched and guarded, first by fathers and brothers and then by husbands. This also links into the view that women cannot be trusted sexually and that their power is so irresistible that men must be protected form it. Whether or not this takes the form of certain types of Islamic society, whereby a woman must remain covered so she is not a threat to men and does not tempt them, or even in certain situations in the West, where a woman is said to ‘lead a man on’ because of what she wears, women are seen as highly sexualized, dangerous beings who use their sexuality, knowingly or not, for male destruction. Women can never be pure because they are always sexual and always destructive.

In many ways, the sexuality of girls is viewed with the same ambivalence as that of women. On the one hand, girls are expected to be innocent and virginal, having no experience or knowledge of sex yet they are also thought to be sexually knowing. In the West, girl children of around puberty are treated with considerable ambivalence (Holland, 1991). Some are presented as still children, innocent and therefore to be kept ignorant and there is often tremendous fuss over issues such as teaching 12 year olds about sex education. However, there is also the view of girls as natural seductresses – the Lolitas or sexy school girls who know exactly how to entrap and seduce older men. The current ‘super models’ capture this uncertainty well, they are getting younger and younger and more and more child like yet they are also presented as sexual (Wolf, 1991).

There is still considerable opposition to Freud’s notion that children are naturally sexual and that civilisation represses them but it is fairly clear, even to those who dislike Freud and consider many of his propositions seriously flawed, that children are capable of sexual feelings and that sexual purity in children in the sense that it is something they know nothing about, is a myth. Again, this leads on to further debates about the nature of sexuality and the arguments about what children understand about their sexual feelings and whether they label them as sexual but the notion of the sexual child is still one many people are very unhappy with. There is considerable emphasis in this society on stopping children displaying any sexual behaviour in public; girls are sanctioned for sitting improperly so that they may display their underwear and both boys and girls are told off if they touch their genitals publicly (Moore & Rosenthal, 1993).

Another link between women and girl’s sexuality is that of passivity. Both are considered to be passive, waiting for a man to ‘discover’, develop and deflower them. It is still expected that girls will be taught about sex by an older man (Moore & Rosenthal, 1993). Purity in this case is strongly linked to being passive and waiting. The only instance in which as woman can be active is if she is fighting to preserve her purity. Under Islamic law, for example, a woman who kills while trying to prevent herself being raped is treated leniently while if she is raped the penalties on her are harsh and she is punished for impurity.

The biggest difference however between the sexual purity expected of women and girls however, is the emphasis on sexual ignorance as opposed to sexual restriction. Girls are supposed to be ignorant of sex, untouched and virginal. The distinction between adults and children is their supposed lack of sexual knowledge and it is this that gives them their innocence. Innocence for children also means ignorance and knowledge of their bodies or its functions is considered bad (Douglas, 1994). Whether or not this is the same as purity is debatable. There has undoubtedly been a conflation of purity, innocence and virginity but this is problematic (ibid). For example, if we take pure to mean sexually pure, then its opposite is sexually impure which is not exact. Sexual impurity does not simply mean not virginal – -it means breaking sexual restrictions and has heavy negative implications. A woman who has had sex is not necessarily sexually impure as long as she has remained with her husband only. However, she may not be seen as sexually pure either if she has had sexual knowledge – which category does she fit into?

The sexuality of boys is much less problematic as ideas of purity are much less relevant. Boys’ sexuality is far more integrated into their personality and sexual experience is acceptable (Moore & Rosenthal, 1993).

Despite attempts to separate any discussions of women’s and children’s sexuality, the history of both has meant that they have consistently been placed in the same category. As women have become sexually liberated, children have taken the place of women as the innocent in need of protection. It is hard to generalise about purity and innocence because of the huge cross cultural variations and the need for detailed studies of individual societies’ purification beliefs. However, the links between notions of purity in women and children and the fact that this concept can be discussed with much greater ease then men or boy’s purity does tend to suggest that purity is a powerful concept which women and girls have to deal with in many environments in a way males do not. Purity is central to many beliefs about children yet it is rarely discussed or defined. It is taken as a given of childhood in the same way as a term like innocence is and is so fundamental, especially to Western societies, that it is rarely questioned. Children’s purity and their innocence are directly tied to their ignorance and powerlessness and all are seen as essential components of childhood. It is an area where there is little research or debate yet from the point of view of measuring and monitoring the sexual exploitation of children it is important to arrive at acceptable definitions.

2.2 Measuring and Monitoring: Challenges and Opportunities

The process of measuring and monitoring children’s rights requires definitional work in order to identify the data that will be needed to capture the phenomena involved and meaningfully measure the concepts derived. The data themselves must be children-centred and disaggregated in order to distinguish the groups of children who are most at risk of having their rights violated or not achieved. Data that are gathered to serve the needs of institutions, or organised around adult centred units such as households are not adequate, nor are global national data that provide a single indicator for the entire national child population (Ennew & Miljeteig, 1996). It goes without saying that the kind of data that have been produced in general in the discourses on the sexual exploitation of children are not appropriate.

2.2.1. Asking the right questions

The following is a list of some of the questions that could be asked with respect to the sexual exploitation of children, extracted from a guide for data collection on children’s rights designed for Central America as part of a joint project between UNICEF and the Inter-American Human Rights Institute (Ennew & Viquez, 1996). As with the conceptual considerations presented above, these are not comprehensive, but were devised to show the paths that might be followed in the development of indicators to measure and monitor the sexual exploitation of children and its eradication.

How do cultural definitions of childhood affect conceptualisation of phenomena?


How do legal definitions of childhood affect these phenomena? 
What age groupings are used in collecting and reporting data about these phenomena? 
What forms of discrimination against children and between groups of children operate in this area? 
What disaggregations should be sought in the collection and reporting of data about these phenomena? 
Who is responsible for children’s welfare in this area: parents, community or the state? 
What mechanisms exist/are used by children to claim their rights? 
What state welfare mechanisms exist? How effective and accessible are they? 
What community (traditional) mechanisms exist? How effective are they? 
At what ages and in which circumstances are children’s views sought and taken into consideration in this area?

In the case of all protection rights there are additional questions to be asked with respect to each article:


What legal measures protect children in this area? 
What relevant international agreements have been signed and ratified by your country? 
What mechanisms are in place to ensure that these laws and agreements are implemented? 
How well do these mechanisms work?

Solving the definitional problems in this area depends on examining the cultural contexts not only of sexual norms and values, but also of gender and childhood.

At what ages and under what circumstances can people under 18 legally have sexual relationships?

What evidence is there of related laws being broken?

How many convictions are there annually for sexual abuse of children by non related adults?


What kind of offences are involved?
What groups of children are involved?
Who are the abusers?

Important:Sexual abuse tends to be under-reported. Those who are convicted of abuse are not necessarily representative of child abusers in general.

How many child prostitutes are brought to the attention of welfare and police authorities each year?


What groups of adults are involved, as clients or in controlling the child prostitutes? 
What groups of children are involved? 
Is it related to (or believed to be related to) tourism?

Is there evidence of forced or early marriage?

How many under-age pregnancies occur each year? (This includes looking at figures for abortion and miscarriage as well as live births). Can these be linked to child sexual exploitation or abuse?

Important: Under-age pregnancies involve two children, the child-mother and her baby.

What happens to under-age mothers? (Do they miss out on schooling, for example?)

What happens to their babies?

How many children annually are treated for sexually transmitted diseases?

Important: It is important to look at the full range of sexually transmitted diseases and not to concentrate on figures for HIV/AIDS.

What organisations and programmes exist for eliminating sexual exploitation?


What are their objectives?

What organisations exist for protagonism by child prostitutes?


What are their objectives? 
How many children are involved in these organisations? 

What welfare provisions are made for child prostitutes who live and work on the street and have no family links?


How many children are involved?

What provision is made for children who live and work on the streets to maintain or re-activate family links?


How many children are involved?

What protective measures are in place to ensure that vulnerable children are not trafficked?

Are child prostitutes able to obtain health care and to learn how to protect their own health, without discrimination?


What health services exist specifically for them? 
How many and what kinds of children use these services?


The first task in this group is to define the term rehabilitation.

Adult interventions on children’s behalf in Latin America often seem to depend on the use of certain terms: ‘situacion iregular’, ‘peligro social’ and ‘situacion de vulnerabilidad’ are the most common terms in use.


Which agencies or types of organisation use these terms? 
What do they mean? 
Who decides when a child is in ‘situacion iregular’, ‘peligro social’ or ‘situacion de vulnerabilidad’?

Conceptual issues related to this article depend on ideas about:

€The harm that is known or expected to have occurred to children whose rights to protection have been violated;

€The expected outcomes of rehabilitation schemes;

€Available resources;

€Knowledge of methods of rehabilitation.

Rehabilitation schemes can have three major aspects:

€Repairing physical or mental harm;

€Improving intellectual, social or economic skills;

Providing welfare and economic resources.

What rehabilitation schemes exist (governmental, intergovernmental or NGO):

For child victims of domestic violence and abuse?

For children who have been abducted, or trafficked?
For refugee and displaced children?
For economically exploited children?
For children involved in drug use?
For sexually exploited children?

How many children of each category are involved in such schemes?

What proportion of children in each category is involved in such schemes?

What are the mechanisms for ensuring that rehabilitation programmes and institutions meet acceptable standards of provision?

Is advice and support given to families of child victims?

Is information about rehabilitation schemes readily available, especially among vulnerable populations of children?

Do rehabilitation schemes include appropriate health services and special educational provision?


2.2.2. Operational definitions for measuring and monitoring the commercial sexual exploitation of children

To arrive at an operational definition that can be measured, some prior conceptual work may be necessary. For example, dignity cannot be measured, nor can innocence, but if they are defined then it is possible to define and measure acts and practices that violate dignity and innocence.

With question such as this it is possible to return to the framework of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and begin to tease out some of the definitions that will lead to sepcifying the data that should be collected. Taking one of the linked groups of articles, education (Articles 28 and 29), defining this in so far as it relates to prostitution could lead to the lists of information shown in Figure 5. Likewise, finding operational definitions for the ideas encompassed by the various relationships between children and prostitution, leads to the lists shown in Figure 6, keeping in mind the following primary considerations:

€Define age ranges, related to the physical, psychological and social development of sexuality, as a basic tool for collecting and presenting data;

€Define cultural understandings of commerce, exploitation, exchange and reciprocity in the context of gender, custom and sexuality.

€Remember that gender and custom/culture are fundamental to interpreting the relevant Articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

Finally, the sources of necessary information can be identified, as in Figure 7. It is in this way that the unmeasurable turns out to be measurable, and the practices involved in the commercial sexual exploitation of children cut down to size, so that they can be eliminated.

Figure 5: Defining education with respect to prostitution

State Budget provision (for example for sex education, per child, disaggregated by geographical parameters)Rehabilitation schemes

Standards of provision

Teachers (special training)
Teaching materials
Teachers Teachers monitoring exploitation
Teachers as early warning system
Teachers identifying casesTeachers as exploiters
Educational indicators as indirect indicators of commercial sexual exploitation Drop out
Educational achievement

(all disaggregated by age, gender, ethnicity, geographical parameters)
Educational content Knowledge of: 

Sexual health
Choices available
How to make choices
Legal and welfare structures

Figure 6: Defining Children and Prostitution within the framework of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

Article (s)
34, 32, 36 Adults giving children money/goods/favours for sex;
Adults selling children’s sexuality;
Sex and sexuality include
posing for ‘pornography’
looking at ‘pornography’
feeling (including masturbation)

3, 12 Children as witnesses
37 Violence, coercion, torture, cruel and inhumane treatment, punishment associated with sexual exploitation
40, 39, 37 Juvenile justice: legal background, processing and punishment of child offenders, rehabilitation
34 Adult offenders: detection, legal process, punishment, rehabilitation, recidivisim
58 Families who prostitute their children, children of prostitutes, children of children who are prostitutes
30, 24 Culture and custom:
Includes, early marriage, temporary marriage, practices such as devadasi, initiation, indigenous medicine, circumcision (male and female), tourism, business travel..
26/27 Social welfare provision
24 Sexually transmitted diseases
Maternal mortality (child mothers)
Child mortality (children of child mothers)
Psychological health
Figure 7: Data available from Ministries and other government departments
Justice & Social Work Health Census Education Finance
actions taken

pimps, brothel owners, clients, parents/family,po lice,teachers, clergy, selling pornography,

Social work – ‘at risk’ families

births, non-births
maternal mortality
Psychology (counselling for
prostituted children)
Migration patterns (by age and gender)Child suicides, homicide victims

Household data

Drop out
School performanceSpecial teacher education

Special materials on:

Literacy rates

% for
Sex education
HIV/STD education
Rehabilitation(per child)



Index – Introduction – Part 1 – Part 2 – References – Annotated Bibliography