Men turn to children for fear of Aids

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The Independent Online
The spread of HIV and Aids has led to increasing sexual exploitation of young people as men seek out younger girls whom they believe are likely to be free from the virus, writes Glenda Cooper.

The British charity Save the Children called on governments around the world to strengthen laws against child prostitution in advance of the first World Congress against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children which will take place in Stockholm from 27-31 August.

The charity in their report Kids For Hire said that there had been growing numbers of children involved in the sex industry throughout Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America encompassing not only prostitution but also child trafficking and the use of children in pornography.

Poverty is a critical factor Save the Children said, with some women and girls having no other recourse but to fall back on prostitution. The collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union has led to a steep rise in female unemployment and cutbacks in state services.

A spokeswoman for the charity said it was impossible accurately to estimate how many children are involved because of the illegal and hidden nature of the trade. But existing studies estimate that the number of child-sex workers in Colombia has doubled over the past three years, with a third aged under 14. In Thailand the estimated number of children in commercial sex work ranges from 20,000 to 800,000.

"It is clear [from workers in the field] that the problem has been getting worse," a spokeswoman said.

In countries where there is a high prevalence of HIV/Aids, men are increasingly seeking to have sex with young virgins free from the disease. In India as many as 20 per cent of girls in the tribal communities begin working in the sex trade between 11 and 13 and "this is instigated by the clients in order to avoid HIV infection".

The report said that every year thousands of children were sold, abducted or tricked into forced prostitution in countries other than their own.

It was estimated that at least 100,000 Nepalese girls were working as prostitutes in India at any one time, while there was extensive evidence of child trafficking among the countries of Central America.