Challenges to the rapid identification of children who have been trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation

Yvonne Rafferty
Child Abuse and Neglect, Volume 52. Pages 158-168.
Publication Year:
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

This article reports on child trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation and the lack of rehabilitation efforts for these children, primarily young girls. Drawing from qualitative research done in South and Southeast Asia, the article focuses on rehabilitation and protection efforts. This piece, too, draws attention to the criminalization of these children rather than support for these survivors.



Child trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) is a complex phenomenon, requiring multifaceted programs and policies by various stakeholders. A number of publications have focused on preventing this heinous crime. Less attention, however, has been paid to the recovery and rehabilitation of children who have been traumatized as a result of being trafficked for CSE. This article focuses on the first step in the protection and recovery process, which is to ensure that procedures are in place for their identification, so that they might access timely and appropriate assistance. It highlights three situational and two child-related challenges to identification. In addition, it describes the additional victimization experienced by children who are wrongly arrested for crimes associated with prostitution or illegal border crossings, rather than being identified as victims. An extensive literature review was conducted, and included academic publications, as well as governmental and non-governmental reports. In addition, field-based qualitative research was undertaken in South and Southeast Asia, and involved interviews with representatives from United Nations and governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and aftercare recovery programs.


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