"YOU just have to dance and do what this nice man says. We can make a little money and get you all the fancy things you want."
That's what Alexandria’s boyfriend told her at a party he had taken her to some eight years ago. She was 13 at the time.
And that's how it all began.
Gradually, the man she thought of as the only person who loved and cared for her, demanded more, and would physically abuse her if she refused. Alexandria is one of many child victims of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.
While the term “child trafficking” evokes images of children snatched from the streets, smuggled across borders and moved from place to place, that's rarely the case.
Child trafficking refers to the exploitation of girls and boys, primarily for forced labour and sexual exploitation. Children account for 27 per cent of all the human trafficking victims worldwide, and two out of every three child victims are girls. (*)
According to the United Nations, human trafficking involves three main elements (**):
* The Act - Recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring, or receipt of persons.
* The Means - Threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability, or giving payments or benefits to a person in control of the victim. (the means is irrelevant in cases involving children)
* The Purpose - For the purpose of exploitation, which includes exploiting the prostitution of others, sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery or similar practices and the removal of organs.
Sometimes sold by a family member or an acquaintance, or lured by false promises of education and a "better life," the reality is that these trafficked and exploited children are held in slave-like conditions without enough food, shelter, clothing and often without access to education or play time. They are often severely abused and cut off from all contact with their friends and families.
Children are often trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation or for labour, such as domestic servitude, agricultural work, factory work and mining, or they’re forced to fight in conflicts.
The most vulnerable children, particularly refugees and migrants, are often preyed upon and their hopes for an education, a better job or a better life in a new country are dashed away.
Every country in the world is affected by human trafficking, and as a result, children are forced to drop out of school, risk their lives and are deprived of what every child deserves – a future.
Contact the Counter Trafficking Unit hotline and report suspected cases of child trafficking at 800-4CTU (4288), the Children’s Authority or the nearest police station.
(*) Give Her a Choice: Building A Better Future For Girls (Save the Children)
(**) The United Nations Office on Drug and Crime
Written by The Counter Trafficking Unit, Ministry of National Security, Trinidad and Tobago