Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

The Trafficking of Children in the Asia-Pacific

Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

The Trafficking of Children in the Asia-Pacific

Article excerpt

Foreword | Children are vulnerable to many forms of abuse and exploitation and have long been victims of trafficking for the purpose of both sexual and labour exploitation. There has been some analysis of trafficking of children in Asia, where trafficking persists despite significant prevention efforts, however, comparatively little is known about trafficking in the Pacific. Given that over one-third of the population in the Pacific region is under 15 years of age, anecdotal reports of circumstances which may amount to trafficking raise concerns for the large youth population in the Pacific Islands. Further, although there have been no prosecutions for child trafficking in Australia, the risk experienced by children within the Asia-Pacific region is relevant to responses in Australia and in supporting the development of improved inter-country responses across the region.

This paper examines current definitions of child trafficking, the forms that it is known to take in Asia and the Pacific, the factors which increase vulnerability to trafficking and the mechanisms for the protection of children from this crime.

It is clear that greater conceptual clarity in the definition of child trafficking, together with more detailed investigation of trafficking areas that are less well-known (such as the trafficking of boys for sexual exploitation and the vulnerability of refugee and migrant children) will assist in improving the evidence base for child trafficking and inform the development of more effective responses to these crimes in the Asia-Pacific region.

Adam Tomison


Child trafficking represents 'a failure to protect the rights of the most vulnerable children' (UNICEF 2008: 3). Although there have been no prosecutions in Australia, the issue is a serious one that warrants closer attention; particularly given Australia's geographic position within a region where several countries are variously affected by problems such as weak migration systems, poor governance and transnational crime. Together with the growing use of technology in offending, these issues suggest a level of risk for children in the region that is of relevance to Australian efforts to address trafficking in persons.

This paper reflects key findings from a review of the available literature on the issue of child trafficking in both Asia and the Pacific. It includes observations on issues such as the forms of child trafficking observed in these regions, factors associated with vulnerability to trafficking and the issue of 'good practice' in the protection of children from this crime. This paper concludes by noting some of the gaps in the existing literature.

What is child trafficking?

Trafficking in children (persons under the age of 1 8 years) is defined in Article 3 of the Trafficking Protocol (UN 2000) as involving two elements- an action, in the form of recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, which is undertaken for the purpose of exploitation. 'Exploitation' includes, at a minimum, exploiting the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal or organs.

There is room for considerable overlap between the specific legal concept of 'trafficking in children' and other concepts regulated by law such as the 'commercial sexual exploitation of children', 'the worst forms of child labour' and 'illegal adoption'.

In deciding whether a situation can be classified as 'trafficking in children', it is important to recall the two elements noted above that are required to satisfy the definition. For example, 'illegal adoption' could constitute a form of child trafficking if it involved a person seeking a child for adoption into their family with the intention of exploiting that child.

Children are also affected where their parents are the primary victims of trafficking. …

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