Child trafficking is a global human rights tragedy. It is estimated that over one million children worldwide, are recruited from their homes each year by individuals seeking to exploit their labour. Extreme poverty, sometimes combined with the death of one or both parents, makes children highly vulnerable to false promises of education, vocational training or paid work.
Upon their recruitment, trafficked children often travel long distances without adequate food and shelter, in some cases suffering severe injury or death on the way. At their destinations, they work long hours in homes, markets, fields, and factories. In many cases, they undergo extreme forms of physical and mental abuse, including beatings, death threats, and the prospect of never seeing their families again.
Governments have an obligation under international law to protect children from these appalling abuses indeed, from all practices similar to slavery. Whether working as sex workers or in other forms of work, trafficked children may be vulnerable to HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Even if they are lucky enough to escape, they may find themselves living on the street and forced into hazardous work, including begging and sex work, to survive. Providing basic protections to victims of child trafficking, as well as prosecuting traffickers to the full extent of the law, are the responsibility of all governments. Preventing the recruitment and transport of children through improving access to education (especially for girls), stepping up border patrols and educating parents are crucial. Multilateral agreements on the prevention and prosecution of child trafficking, as well as the repatriation and protection of trafficked children, cannot be negotiated too soon.