Similarities and Distinctive Aspects in the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in West Africa and the United States


Charles Hounmenou, MSW, MA, MEd, PhD | September 20 | 11:30 AM-12:30 PM

Topic: Research, International | Knowledge Level: Intermediate, Advanced | Location: TBD

Commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) is prevalent in every region in the world. ILO (2005) estimates that 1.39 million people are victims of sexual exploitation, including approximately 0.79 million children. ILO considers CSEC a major violation of the human rights of children and a crime on the part of those who use children in the sex trade (IPEC, 2007). Scholars tend to view CSEC in the Global South through a Western theoretical lens, thus failing to contextualize the phenomenon based on distinctive environmental factors in each region. This presentation aims to compare key characteristics of CSEC in the U.S. and in countries in West Africa. A review of selected studies on CSEC conducted in the two regions between 2008 and 2016 shows that there are as many similarities as distinctive aspects regarding the characteristics of victims, service provision, policies, and research. In both regions, most CSEC victims are citizens of the countries where they live; boys and transgender youth tend to have more agency than girls over their sexual transactions. Distinctive aspects of CSEC include: the proportion of boy victims of CSEC close to that of girls in the U.S.; limited presence of pimps in CSEC and limited evidence of mental health issues among victims in West Africa. The presentation challenges key knowledge in the mainstream literature on CSEC. It also points to the importance of giving consideration to social and cultural factors in services and research on CSEC. Implications for practice, policy, and research are discussed.

Presentation Objectives:

·  Describe similarities and differences in the characteristics of CSEC in West Africa and the United States

·  Describe and contrast services needed and accessed by CSEC victims in West Africa and the United States

·  Discuss the policy responses to CSEC in the two regions

·  Contrast the issues in research about CSEC in the two regions and draw lessons for international research practice.

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