Child trafficking is an extremely complex political, socio-economical and legal problem. It manifests itself in the hidden underworld but interacts with the legitimate economy and is intrinsically linked to global supply chains, shifting political landscapes and human development. Child trafficking is a legal problem as victims are stripped of their human rights and traffickers are often acting with impunity. It is an economic problem as many victims are seeking to escape poverty and are lured into trafficking or forced into it by their families by the false promise of economic gain. It is also a health problem, as child trafficking victims are at great risk of severe physical and mental health problems. It is finally also a gender problem as unequal power relations in society reinforce the demand for exploitation of children, in particular sexual exploitation of girls.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that 1.2 million children are trafficked each year. In 2012, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported the percentage of child victims had risen in a 3-year span from 20 percent to 27 percent. The trafficking of children has been internationally recognized as a serious crime and a breach of an individual’s human rights that exists in every region of the world. Yet, it is only within the past decade that the prevalence and ramifications of this practice have risen to international prominence, due to a dramatic increase in research and public action.