Child Trafficking

April 16, 2021 • Volume 31, Issue 14
Can the world reduce a growing scourge?
By Jonathan Broder


The worldwide trafficking of children for commercial sex and forced labor is rising rapidly, despite more than a century of laws, treaties and protocols banning the practice. Some 10 million children are trafficked each year, the majority of them girls forced into the underground sex trade. Poverty, natural disasters and now the COVID-19 pandemic have left destitute families and their children vulnerable to traffickers. The use of the internet to sell images of child sex abuse to pedophiles around the world has exploded. Law enforcement officials say they do not have the resources to stop the traffickers, who net some $150 billion a year — second in profit only to the drug trade. A new U.S. law enables states to prosecute internet platforms that knowingly facilitate such trafficking, but critics have challenged the law in court, arguing it restricts free speech. Some experts say the best way to defeat trafficking is to align government policy with a sweeping United Nations sustainable development agenda that will add untapped resources to the battle.

Photo of child trafficking victims in Côte d'Ivoire on March 25, 2021. (AFP/Getty Images/Sia Kambou)
Child trafficking victims in a shelter in Côte d'Ivoire in March wait to be returned to their homes in the neighboring West African country of Burkina Faso. Some 10 million children are trafficked every year, often due to the burgeoning online child sex trade. (AFP/Getty Images/Sia Kambou)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Child Abuse
Apr. 16, 2021  Child Trafficking
Aug. 26, 2016  Child Welfare
Aug. 31, 2001  Children in Crisis
Jan. 15, 1993  Child Sexual Abuse
Sep. 18, 1987  Child Sexual Abuse
Jan. 30, 1976  Child Abuse
May 12, 1965  Child Abuse: Search for Remedies
Child Abuse
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