PHILADELPHIA -- Representatives from the U.S., Canada and Mexico will meet Dec. 2-3 to develop a plan to combat the commercial sexual exploitation of children, including the problems of child prostitution, pornography and sexual trafficking.
The North American Regional Consultation on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children will include 100 governmental and non-governmental representatives from law-enforcement, human-services and child-advocacy groups in the three nations. The conference is being held at the University of Pennsylvania.
Conferees will look at a situation in which thousands of children are trafficked into North America for sexual purposes annually from poorer nations in Central and South America, Central and Eastern Europe and East and Southeast Asia. The commercial sexual trade of at least 200,000 children was documented in a report released earlier this year by Richard Estes, a Penn professor of social work and the conference's chair.
New information from the study reveals that more than 16,000 children in Mexico are engaged in prostitution in just seven Mexican cities. Many of these children are victims of national and intra-regional trafficking from poorer countries located in Central and south America, including Costa Rica, Honduras and Guatemala.
"In many cases the intended destination of these children is the U.S.," Estes said, "but, owing to the more relaxed law enforcement practices toward sexual predators in Mexico, many traffickers find they can make substantial profit by exploiting the children through pornography or prostitution in Mexico City or in Mexican resort communities frequented by Mexicans and foreigners."
Trafficking fees within the region can be as little as a few hundred dollars for children trafficked from Chiapas or Tapachula to Mexico City or Tijuana for eventual smuggling into the U.S. "The fees can skyrocket to tens of thousands of dollars for children trafficked into North America from Central or Eastern Europe or from Asia," Estes said.
Other newly released information from the Penn study shows that Canada is an easy gateway into the U.S. for sexually exploited children from China, the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia and Central and Eastern Europe. "Due to relaxed border controls between the U.S. and Canada," Estes said, " trafficked children are able to be moved with comparative ease and meet with little or no official interference."
Topics at the Penn conference will be:
- North American Trends in the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children.
- Profiles of Child Sexual Exploiters.
- Domestic and International Trafficking in Children for Sexual Purposes.
- Toward a Regional Plan of Action.
- Special sessions will focus on ways in which the public and private sectors can cooperate to protect children by apprehending predators and also on the role of popular culture, mass media and the Internet in promoting sexual exploitation of children.
This Consultation is a preparatory meeting for the Second World Congress Against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children that will be held in Yokohama, Japan December 17-20, 2001.
A copy of the report, The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the United States is available at http://caster.ssw.upenn.edu/~restes/CSEC.htm.