Younger girls forced into prostitution in economic crisis: conference

Wed Dec 5, 2012 4:05pm EST
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By Belinda Goldsmith

LONDON (Reuters) - Younger and younger girls are being dragged into prostitution because of the global economic crisis, a conference on women's rights was told on Wednesday.

About 21 million people - or three out of 1,000 people globally - are in forced labor, meaning they have been coerced or deceived into jobs which they cannot leave, figures released by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) this year showed.

The ILO said about 4.5 million of these, mainly women and girls, were victims of sexual exploitation and overall the human trafficking trade was estimated to be worth $32 billion a year.

Ruchira Gupta, founder of Indian charity Apne Aap Women Worldwide that works with prostitutes in 10 red light districts, said cuts in funding to women's projects had reduced the options open to women and girls other than prostitution.

"We are seeing the number rise in these 10 red light districts while the age of the girls is falling," said Gupta, adding the average age of female prostitutes in India was between nine and 13.

"We need to invest more in girls and women so that there are options other than prostitution, organ trade, or (becoming) child soldiers."

While the ILO figures suggested modern-day slavery has risen to a record level, the data came with the caveat that it was hard to estimate numbers as victims were often scared to come forward and there was a lack of records in most countries.

Rising poverty was blamed for driving more women into the sex industry against their will.   Continued...

Seventeen-year-old prostitute Hashi applies her makeup as she prepares for customers at Kandapara brothel in Tangail, a northeastern city of Bangladesh, March 5, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj