|U.S. Department of Labor
Bureau of International Labor Affairs
International Child Labor Program
The U.S. Department of Labor funds projects in over 50 countries
that aim to eliminate hazardous and exploitative forms of child labor, rehabilitate
former child workers, and promote education.
Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children
About the Program
Elaine L. Chao
United States Secretary of Labor
Thomas B. Moorhead
Deputy Under Secretary, International Labor Affairs
©International Labor Organization/J. Maillard
Bargaining recruitment conditions of a domestic child worker.
- In 2001, between 700,000 and 4 million women and children were trafficked
and held against their will in slave-like conditions. (Source: US State
- Trafficking occurs between countries AND within countries.
- Children are trafficked for a variety of purposes:
_ Commercial Sexual Exploitation
_ Domestic service
_ Armed Conflict
_ Camel Jockeys
_ Hazardous work in agriculture, construction, or other sectors
"One day when I was 17, I went to my cousins
wedding party. He said he could offer me a good job. I went with him to
a hotel and there he raped me in front of a dozen people. For 15 days
he kept me at this hotel in Hetquda [Nepal]. Then we left for India. In
Rakswal, India, my cousin gave me some tea with pop rice, which made me
very drowsy and he told the Indian police that I was his sick wife and
he was taking me to India for treatment. He also tortured me with a knife
and burnt me with cigarette butts and threatened me saying that I should
not talk to anybody on the way. When we reached Pilas, I was taken to
a building where I saw many other ladies in vulgar clothes with short
skirts. I was amazed. From the other girls I came to know that I had been
This is the testimony of Thuli, a young girl from Nepal who was trafficked
to India and sold into prostitution for Rs 35,000, the equivalent of $720.
Thulis blacksmith family is considered low-caste, and their poverty
kept her from attending school as a young child. Intrigued by the promise
of good pay, Thulis desire to improve her economic situation led
to a period of forced labor in an Indian brothel where she worked 18 hours
a day for no pay, having unprotected sex with up to 15 clients a day.
She describes being physically, sexually, and emotionally abused by her
brothel owner and the clients she was forced to serve. On one occasion,
her identity was hidden from Nepalese police who were conducting an inspection
of the facility, and later, it was only after the help of a health worker
that Thuli was removed from the brothel and taken home to her family in
Nepal. Although she is free today, Thuli deals with remnants of the experience
on a daily basis. The betrayal caused her to lose trust in Nepalese men,
including her father and brother, and worse, the exploitation left her
HIV-positive and suffering from tuberculosis. Thulis testimony was
collected through the USDOL-funded South Asia Trafficking Project.
Thulis story is one that can be repeated by many children in virtually
any corner of the world. Child trafficking is a rampant and horrific practice
affecting both boys and girls and involving a seemingly endless string
of actors, facilitators, and beneficiaries. USDOL currently funds a number
of projects in West and Central Africa and South Asia that aim to assist
government agencies and nongovernmental organizations in effectively preventing
and abolishing child trafficking. Through the USDOL projects, thousands
of children will be assisted, through a combination of targeted measures,
including rescue and withdrawal from exploitative work, trauma counseling,
reintegration into school or vocational training, and awareness-raising.
USDOL-Funded Child Trafficking Projects
TOTAL US Contribution approximately $9.5 million
- West and Central Africa: Trafficking for Labor Exploitation (Phases
1 and 2/Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali,
- South Asia: Trafficking for Exploitative Employment (Bangladesh, Nepal,
- Nepal: Setting National Strategies to Combat Girls Trafficking
and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC)
- Timebound Program in Nepal (budget not included in above figure).
© International Labor Organization/P. Deloche
Children in a Philippine shantytown with militia presence.
© Amnesty International
A drawing by a former child soldier in Sierra Leone.
This drawing is one in a set collected by Amnesty International, available
online at http://www.amnesty.org/
"At the age of 13, I joined the student
movement. I had a dream to contribute to make things change, so that children
would not be hungry
.Later I joined the armed struggle. I had all
the inexperience and the fears of a little girl. I found out that girls
were obliged to have sexual relations to alleviate the sadness of the
combatants. And who alleviated our sadness after going with someone we
There is a great pain in my being when I recall all
.In spite of my commitment, they abused me, they trampled
my human dignity. And above all, they did not understand that I was a
child and that I had rights." -From a Honduras case study, cited
in United Nations, Impact of Armed Conflict on Children: Special Concerns,
At the recent United Nations Special Session on Children, 17-year old
Eliza from Bosnia-Herzegovina said, "War and politics have always been
an adults game, but children have always been the losers." Her words
are particularly true in the case of child soldiers. In dozens of countries
around the world, approximately 300,000 children work as soldiers, toting
rifles, serving on the front lines, and participating in armed conflict
alongside trained adult militia and military personnel. Many children
willingly seek refuge with armed groups due to poverty or separation from
family members, while others are forced to conscript or are kidnapped
from their homes and taken to camps to be trained. The atrocities these
children witness as participants in war would be enough to traumatize
any grown adult, but additionally, child soldiers may be victim to other
abuses, including drugging, branding, or sexual exploitation. Child soldiers
suffer higher casualty rates than adults. And for those who do survive,
the end of the conflict brings the onset of severe psychological trauma,
difficulty readjusting to formal educational settings, and often rejection
by family members if and when they return home.
For these reasons, demobilization of child soldiers and their rehabilitation
is a difficult task, and the need for sound strategies to prevent children
from ever entering this type of work is evident. With this need in mind,
USDOL is currently funding the first phase of a project intended to contribute
to the effective abolition of forced recruitment of children in armed
conflicts in Burundi, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of
Congo, and Rwanda. Current project activities focus on information gathering
and preparatory work to develop a comprehensive strategy, to be implemented
in Phase 2 of the project.
USDOL-Funded Child Soldiers Project TOTAL US Contribution approximately
- Central Africa: Prevention and Rehabilitation of Children in Armed
Conflict (Phase 1 Phase 2 pending completion of Phase 1)
These Northern Thai girls at risk of commercial sexual exploitation were
provided with non-formal education, thanks to support from a DOL-funded
Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC)
Approximately 1 million children enter the sex trade every
year. UNICEF, Profiting from Abuse
"As they say in this dingy border junction with Panama, everything has
a price. Sex with children, for example, starts at $14.41. Just
take a look around, said Nautilio Sanchez, a furniture store and
pharmacy owner who is president of the local Council for Social Development.
There is no playground, no swimming pool, the children have nothing
and so they turn to sex. Probably 60 percent of our prostitutes here are
children, and what we're facing now is a critical problem in search of
So is all of Costa Rica -Sikaola, Costa
Rica: James Varney, The Times Picayune (New Orleans)
The commercial sexual exploitation of children is a billion-dollar industry.
Children are targeted for sex or the production of pornography at enormous
profit to adults who facilitate the process, including school teachers,
businessmen, and even members of a childs family. In many cases,
it is also a lucrative trade for the children, which serves as an incentive
for their involvement, particularly among the worlds poorest populations.
But poverty is only one factor that contributes to sexual exploitation.
According to UNICEF, in poor communities, high illiteracy and a low level
of marketable skills make it easier for procurement agents to obtain children.
But family breakdown, local culture, the low status of women, and weak
law enforcement also contribute. The exploitation occurs at great risk
to the children, who are in danger of early pregnancies, sexually transmitted
diseases, and exposure to HIV/AIDS. USDOL funds several projects to address
the problem of CSEC through various targeted measures. For example, two
pilot projects, in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, led to the development of
awareness raising materials for journalists and police on the sexual exploitation
of children, as well as an award-winning public service announcement.
These materials were the first of their kind in the region and highly
praised in the countries where they were used. Through the ILO, USDOL
also funds a Timebound Program in Tanzania, which includes the goal of
removing 5,000 children from prostitution, and providing them with rehabilitative
services and educational opportunities. Two other Timebound Programs in
the Dominican Republic and El Salvador also target the removal of children
from sexual exploitation.
USDOL-Funded CSEC Projects
TOTAL US Contribution approximately $10 million
- Thailand: Prevention of Child Labor and Forced Child Prostitution
(Phases 1 and 2)
- Timebound Preparatory Program in the Dominican Republic
- Timebound Programs in El Salvador, Dominican Republic (to be funded
FY 2002) and Tanzania (budgets not included in above figure).
© International Labor Organization/ J.M. Derrien
The words "child labor" often evoke images
of young children toiling for pennies in sweatshops producing clothes
or sporting goods that are exported for consumption in Western markets.
And while this frequent association may be accurate, child labor
and in particular, the worst forms of child labor encompasses a
far more complex and varied set of activities. According to international
standards, the worst forms of child labor include: forced or bonded labor,
trafficking in children, children in armed conflict (child soldiers),
the commercial sexual exploitation of children for prostitution or pornography,
the utilization of children for drug trafficking, and any other work that
is harmful to the "health, safety and morals of children." The testimonials
of former child laborers are haunting. Children as young as five are subject
to physical, sexual and emotional abuse; they are kidnapped, sold, or
tricked into forced labor, sometimes by friends or family; they work with
harmful chemicals, equipment, or in life-threatening conditions, resulting
in long-term health consequences; they are extremely susceptible to HIV/AIDS;
and in many cases, they lose the opportunity to access one of the most
basic rights of all children: education.
- The International Labor Organization estimates that in 2000, 211 million
children between the ages of 5 and 14 were working.
- Of that total, 73 million were under the age of 10.
©International Labor Organization/P. Rain
© International Labor Organization/J. Maillard
the International Child Labor Program
The International Child Labor Program (ICLP)
was created in 1993 in response to a direct request from Congress to investigate
and report on child labor around the world. Since then, increasing domestic
and international concern about child labor has prompted the expansion
of ICLP programs and activities. Today, these activities include continued
research and reporting on international child labor and support for technical
assistance programs to address the problem and raise public awareness
and understanding of child labor issues worldwide.
ICLP has published a number of reports on international child labor since
1994. These reports, mandated by Congress, explore various aspects of
international child labor issues and have been widely distributed in the
United States and abroad. The reports are available online, or by phone
Between 1995 and 2002, ICLP has contributed approximately $157 million
to the International Labor Organization to provide technical assistance
in order to combat child labor around the world. ILAB also received an
additional $74 million in 2001 and 2002 through Congressional appropriations
for a new international initiative to improve access to quality basic
education for children in areas with a high incidence of child labor.
Of this amount, $37 million has been awarded through competitive bidding.
ICLP has also awarded five domestic grants and contracts to domestic
organizations to conduct research and raise awareness regarding international
child labor issues.
"We must all recommit ourselves to the fight against exploitative
child labor. At the same time we must seek to ensure that all children,particularly
young girls, are given equal access to education and training."
Secretary of Labor, Elaine L. Chao, International Labor Conference,
June 11, 2002