Causes for Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

The causes of CSEC are complex and patterns differ among countries and regions. For example, in some areas the commercial sexual exploitation of children is clearly related to foreign child sex tourism, in others it is associated with the local demand. In most countries, girls represent 80 to 90% of the victims, although in some places boys predominate.

As is the case for other worst forms of child labour, severe poverty, the possibility of relatively high earnings, low value attached to education, family dysfunction, a cultural obligation to help support the family or the need to earn money to simply survive are all factors that make children vulnerable to CSEC. In order to make a living children are sold into the sex trade to provide food and shelter and in some cases money to satisfy the addiction of a family member or themselves

There are other non-economic factors that also push children into commercial sexual exploitation. Children who are at greatest risk of becoming victims of CSEC are those that have previously experienced physical or sexual abuse. A family environment of little protection, where caregivers are absent or where there is a high level of violence or alcohol or drug consumption, induces boys and girls to run away from home, making them highly susceptible to abuse. Gender discrimination and low educational levels of caregivers are also risk factors. Children with extreme poverty and marginalized families in coastal areas also becoming victims of CSEC.

On the demand side, certain factors can aggravate the problem. For example, sex tourists are a source of demand for prostitution. The presence of military troops or of large public works may also create demand. Client preferences for young children, particularly in the context of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, pull in additional children. Additionally, the expansion of the Internet has facilitated the growth of child pornography.

Experience has shown that certain socio-economic characteristics, such as population density, concentration of night entertainment (bars and discos), high poverty and unemployment levels, movement of people, and access to highways, ports, or borders are also associated with CSEC.