Documentary examines U.S. child sex trade

Wed Apr 29, 2009 1:23am EDT
 
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By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Filmmaker Libby Spears wanted to make a documentary about the sexual exploitation of kids in Asia and Latin America, but that changed when she discovered that child sex trafficking is a big problem in the United States.

"Playground," which premiered at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival, looks at the child sex trade in the United States and discrepancies in laws and the perception of the exploitation of foreign and U.S. children.

"We have laws in this country that protect international victims of sex trafficking and don't have laws that protect domestic victims, but that's just starting to change," Spears told Reuters in a recent interview.

"Here (in the United States) when it's a 12-year-old girl they like to call it prostitution, they like to call her a prostitute, when that's not accurate," said Spears, who hopes her film will raise awareness and help push policy change. "There needs to be more resources for these kids long term."

The film quotes figures from the group End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT), which says U.S. citizens account for 25 percent of child sex tourists worldwide.

The international group also says 300,000 U.S. children are at risk of being forced into the sex trade.

Spears credits an interview with Ernie Allen, president and chief executive of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, for changing the direction of her film.

"People don't think it happens in this country. It may look in some cases different than it looks in other parts of the world, but vulnerable kids are targeted by procurers, by exploiters, by pimps, lured into the sex trade," Allen says in the documentary.   Continued...