Child Prostitution: Causes and Effects

Child prostitution is a worldwide problem, especially in poor nations. The reasons for the prevalence of child prostitution globally include exploitation by adults, financial problems, family conflicts, and homelessness. Professionals in the field agree with Green who defined child prostitution as “the provision of sexual services in exchange for some form of payment such as money, drugs, drink or even a bed or roof over one’s head” (Knight, 2002, p. 27). The fact is, as stated by Barrett and Beckett, “the causes of child prostitution … cannot be disentangled from factors such as poverty, family conflict, homelessness, and abuse” (1122). Children are enticed into prostitution by several means ranging from promises of care and affection and false offers of employment to direct proffers of money to help them out of destitute situations or to support drug habits. Once control is established, either by indebtedness or by exploitation of the child’s emotional immaturity, the “boyfriend” dominates them and forces to work.

However, force or coercion is not the only means by which children are introduced to the prostitution lifestyle. In Thailand, for example, there are instances where family support is the reason for children entering the prostitution scheme. Heather Montgomery, Trinity College, Cambridge; Department of Social Anthropology, Cambridge University conducted a study for 15 months during 1994 and 1995 in a small Thai village on the outskirts of one of Thailand’s largest tourist destinations. For reasons of protecting, Montgomery gave the village the pseudonym Baan Nua in her study. One of the first things Montgomery found from her observations was that few adults in this village work. She discovered that many people moved to the village from farms and had come in search of “work as street traders, food sellers, and rubbish collectors— jobs with few start-up costs and suitable for those with limited skills or formal education” (Montgomery 172). Moreover, the researcher discovered that they could make more money “selling sex to the American soldiers on Rest & Recreation (R & R) breaks in Thailand during the Vietnam War and, after they left in 1975, to the tourists who took their place” (Montgomery, 172). She discovered that there have been three generations living in the village involved in prostitution. Also, Montgomery observed that “Given this background, it was not surprising that children in Baan Nua turned to prostitution as the most obvious way of earning money” (172). In Baan Nua, children “lived with their parents, had not been trafficked, debt bonded, or tricked into prostitution” (Montgomery 172).

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Unfortunately, the above example is the exception rather than the rule in children exploitation. As Susan Knight explains “Children are not prostitutes, they are victims of abuse and sexual exploitation” (27). Adults take advantage of the coercive power they hold over children to force them into prostitution or other activities like child pornography for their own financial gain. Knight reiterates what is generally known: “Most children do not voluntarily enter prostitution; they are enticed, coerced or completely desperate” (28). The international group End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism (ECPAT) puts the problem into perspective:

“The commercial sexual exploitation of children is a fundamental violation of

children’s rights. It comprises sexual abuse by the adult and remuneration in

cash or kind to the child or a third person or persons. The child is treated as a

sexual object and as a commercial object. The commercial sexual exploitation

of children constitutes a form of coercion and violence against children and

amounts to forced labor and a contemporary form of slavery” (52).


Child prostitution, abuse, and exploitation are all disgraceful in that they destroy the adult-child loving and trust relationship that should always be present and more should be done around the world to end the exploitation of children whether it be for financial, emotional, or other reasons. Children should be loved and protected and not abused or exploited.


Works Cited

Barrett, D and W Beckett. “Child Prostitution: Reaching out to Children Who Sell Sex to Survive.” British Journal of Nursing, vol. 5, no. 18, 10 Oct. 1996, pp. 1120-1125. EBSCOhost, Accessed March 30, 2017.

“ECPAT Country Reports 1996, ‘End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and the Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes,’ Bangkok, Thailand, 1996.” Trends in Organized Crime, vol. 3, no. 4, Summer1998, p. 47. EBSCOhost, Accessed March 30, 2017.

Knight, Suzanne. “Children Abused through Prostitution.” Emergency Nurse, vol. 10, no. 4, Jul/Aug2002, p. 27. EBSCOhost, Accessed March 30, 2017.

Montgomery, Heather. “Child Prostitution as Filial Duty? The Morality of Child-Rearing in a Slum Community in Thailand.” Journal of Moral Education, vol. 43, no. 2, June 2014, pp. 169-182. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/03057240.2014.893420.