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This article is written by Ruchi Dhawan Sharma, pursuing a Diploma in Labour, Employment, and Industrial Laws (including POSH) for HR Managers from Lawsikho.


Commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) is a type of commercial operation in which sexual exploitation of children is involved. For example child pornography, child prostitution, etc. CSEC may also involve violence and force against children. This tantamount to enforced labor. This is also a form of contemporary slavery. This is about offering the sexual services of children in lieu of payment/compensation, in cash or kind in the form of favors. In this, the child is being involved in sexual activity in exchange for money or a promise of something of certain value for something of value or the promise of something of value. If the child involved in this kind of activity is 17 years or below it is called commercial sexual exploitation of children. Some forms of sexual abuse which is done in lieu of money, services, goods can also be in lieu of promise for money, service, or goods, are;

  • Street prostitution
  • Private parties
  • Child pornography
  • Child stripping
  • Erotic massage
  • Nude Massage
  • Phone sex lines
  • Escort services
  • Gang-based prostitution
  • Interfamilial pimping
  • Internet-based exploitation

Vulnerable youth are targeted by exploiters. While anyone can be a victim, runaway kids and homeless children are mostly targeted. Initially, it appears to be love and security, but mostly it turns out to be violence and manipulation. The force and fear are made so high that it makes it difficult for the youth to come forward and identify himself/themselves as victims. They are mostly no capable to seek help. In some specific circumstances, CSEC can occur in the context of online (internet-based marriage) brokering and early marriage. 

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Victims of these crimes

The average age of CSEC victims is mostly between 12years -14years. Recent studies show that 200,000-300,000 children are at risk of being trafficked every year in the United States. Some of the vulnerable categories are;

  • Youth who has a history of sexually abusing
  • Disable children 
  • Youth who are bullied
  • LGBTQ youth 
  • Teenagers who are seeking attention 
  • Teenagers who are looking for a relationship.

What are some of the warning signs of CSEC?

  • Have tattoos with barcodes or initials that do not belong to them. 
  • Young, very old so-called “boyfriends”. The trafficker conceals the identity in the garb of being a boyfriend.
  • Little supervision from family.
  • Having high knowledge of sexual behavior.

It is a form of slavery and involuntary bondage consequential to serious human rights abuses. Sex trafficking involves individuals profiting from the sexual exploitation of others and has to serve physical and emotional consequences for its victims.

What drives human trafficking and children’s sexual commercial exploitation?

The factors that drive children’s sexual commercial exploitation are many but the number of reasons is the. As per the data published by International Labour Organization (ILOP);

  • 150 billion dollars annually is estimated of human trafficking in an estimate

  • 99 billion in sex trafficking and 

  • 51 billion in labor-related trafficking. 

This kind of huge money is also a reason for people falling into this trade.

The legal consequence for those involved in buying from traffickers, and the traffickers themselves are not robust and stringent across the world. Every country will have to work on stringent rules and deadly consequences for those found involved in such act either ways, buyer or traffickers. Lack of awareness in society also leads to the flourishing of this trade. Every county must work towards large-scale awareness programs for this so that each and every citizen is aware of how innocent children fall prey. A large scare awareness of deadly consequences should also be done. The childhood and the innocence of the child are robbed by sexual abuse and exploitation. The emotional and psychological development of the child is badly impacted. It is important to ensure that no children undergo sexual trauma and exploitation. This is not merely a criminal issue but a social issue and important for the future of any country. Despite all efforts the fact that exploitation is happening anywhere – home, street, Internet, etc.

Trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) in India

It is difficult to estimate the real magnitude of CSE in India because the trafficking is concealed and international in nature. Those involved in this are reluctant to speak about this. The Department of Women and Child Development (India) has recently estimated the number of persons trafficked for CSE in India to be around 2.8 million which is an increase of 22% more compared to an earlier estimate. Most of the Young children who are forced into such work are because of poverty and the majority are below 18. As per the published literature, there is an increased demand for young and virgins in fear of AIDS infection. Such networks are usually handled by crime organizations or rebellious groups. A study was done by Sattva consulting between August-December 2020 in three vulnerable districts in West Bengal-  Bankura, Bardhaman, and Birbhum. 

In India, the sex trafficking victims are 15 million each year out of which up to 40% are adolescents and children. Some of them are as young as nine years old. The most vulnerable state in India is West Bengal. From West Bengal maximum number of children were trafficked in 2016. Some recent study has shown that the risk of commercial sexual exploitation of is also due some bad practice in our countries like child labor, child marriage, and unsafe migration.

A new infection that has hit the world badly in the last two years COVID-19 has also aggravated the cases of dropping out of school and small wage earners are badly hit. This has also triggered child marriage. Financial pressures have also made certain sections vulnerable to fall for such practice. Many children are having harmful online exposure as they are spending more time on the Internet. Increased in CSEC is also a result of social and personal factors such as;

  • Poverty 
  • Poor living standards
  • Low education
  • gender-biases 
  • Little or no positive influences 
  • Greed for a better life. 
  • The helplessness of children and parents to fulfill basic needs
  •  No awareness about CSEC 

In India a large number of women and children trafficked for CSE, this has become an international business in our country. Stringent action is required to control this. Lack of education, employment opportunities in our country further aggravates the reasons to get into CSEC, as CSEC has huge money. As per the fundamental rights, children have the right to live with dignity therefore and such acts need to be dealt with severe actions. 

A comprehensive strategy for anti-trafficking as a part of human rights is required to deal with this. The approach requires a systematic development plan and a robust plan to implement the same. The policies should be made to address the factors which create vulnerability These are the cultural factors, socio-economic conditions, and environmental factors. India has recently revised the Child Marriage Prohibition Act (2007) which is a good step in curtailing such trafficking wherein the husband of the minor himself sells off the girl to earn money.

The areas which require work 

  • Women’s economic empowerment by way of training, job creation, etc will also help in this direction,
  • Gender equality,
  • Women’s ownership and control of productive resources, 
  • development of wider social welfare networks,
  • enforcement of safe migration policies,
  • zero-tolerance level for such activities,
  • strengthening the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act, 
  • India’s legal response to trafficking, in accordance with the United Nations Protocol, to prevent, suppress, and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children (2000) and the UN Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking (2002),
  • Comprehensive anti-trafficking policies help to address the root causes of also protection of and assistance to trafficked persons. We need proper enforcement of law and sanctions against traffickers including capital punishment.

Adequate support and protection 

It is important to give adequate support to the people who suffered from trafficking by means of;

  • Compensation for victims of trafficking.
  • Required medical care.
  • Free legal assistance.


  1. [email protected]
  3. Mukherji KK, Mukherjee S: Girls and women in prostitution in India. 2007, Department of Women and Child Development, New Delhi, India
  4. Chattopadhyay A, McKaig RG: Social development of commercial sex workers in India: An essential step in HIV/AIDS prevention. 

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