Russian aggression once morest Ukraine, which is not likely to end in the near future, has a devastating effect on the health and quality of life of Ukrainian children. Their forced emigration to other countries has not only increased the possibilities of abuse of children who lack families and adequate protection, but has also overwhelmed the social and health services of the receiving countries.

Several studies over many decades show that Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) negatively affect children’s cognitive development and their physical and mental health. Children suffer various threats to their well-being, from being victims of sexual and physical abuse to being isolated from their family environment. Children who are separated from their families become prone to being abused and trafficked.

child trafficking: Child trafficking is a widespread phenomenon. Children constitute 27 per cent of the 40 million victims of trafficking worldwide. Two out of three identified child victims are girls. The 2020 Federal Trafficking in Persons Report states that the number of child sex trafficking victims in the United States increased by 55% compared to 2019.

Trafficked children are forced or persuaded under false pretenses to leave their homes. They are transferred to unknown places – often in other countries – to be the girls engaged as sex workers; work in abusive conditions; marrying men who are much older, who can also be abusive; or commit crimes. These children are also used as couriers or drug dealers, and are often ‘paid’ with drugs so that they become addicted and further trapped.

Reasons underlying trafficking include poverty; unemployment; low status of girls; lack of education (including sex education) of children and their parents; inadequate legislation; lack or misapplication of the law; and the commercial sexual exploitation of children by the media, a phenomenon increasingly seen throughout the world.

Children exploited for sex work are prone to sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS. In addition, girls can have multiple pregnancies and are often forced to have abortions. Due to the conditions in which they find themselves, children can become malnourished and develop feelings of guilt, inadequacy and depression. They generally do not have access to education and lack opportunities for social and emotional development.

In South Asia, traditional practices that perpetuate the low status of women and girls in society are at the heart of the problem. More than 50,000 women and girls from Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe are brought to the United States each year and forced to perform sex work or work as maids. The United States government has prosecuted cases involving hundreds of victims. In other countries facing this problem, the prosecution rate is low.

child sex tourism: Child sex tourism is another form of trafficking. It is concentrated in Asia and Central and South America. According to UNICEF, 10,000 girls enter Thailand annually from neighboring countries and end up as sex workers. The Thailand Health System Research Institute reports that child sex workers account for 40% of prostitutes in Thailand. Between 5,000 and 7,000 Nepalese girls are transported across the border into India each year and end up as commercial sex workers in Mumbai, Bombay or New Delhi.

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Although the largest number of children forced to become sex workers is in Asia, children in Eastern European countries such as Russia, Poland, Romania, Hungary and the Czech Republic are increasingly vulnerable. . Child sex work shows no signs of abating. In many cases, individual traffickers and organized groups abduct children, transport them across national borders and sell them into sex work, with border officials and the police as accomplices.

There are special social and cultural reasons why children are forced into the sex trade in different regions of the world. In many cases, children from industrialized countries enter the sex trade because they are fleeing abusive homes. In Eastern and Southern African countries, children orphaned by AIDS often lack the protection of caregivers and become more vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation.

Impact of sexual exploitation of children: In addition to the moral and ethical implications, the effect that sexual exploitation has on the health and future development of children requires urgent attention. All over the world, many people and non-governmental organizations are working intensively for the protection of children’s rights.

The work of international non-governmental organizations and UN agencies must be a complement to the actions of national governments to solve this problem. Those actions should include the prevention of sexual exploitation through social mobilization and awareness raising, the provision of social services to exploited children and their families, and the creation of the legal framework and the provision of resources to psychosocial counseling and proper prosecution of perpetrators. Eliminating the sexual abuse and exploitation of children around the world is a daunting task, but one that can be achieved if effective programs are put in place.

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