United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime Article 3, paragraph (a) of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons defines Trafficking in Persons as:

the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”

3 important elements form the base of this definition

The Act (What is done)

Recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons

The Means (How it is done)

Threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability, or giving payments or benefits to a person in control of the victim

The Purpose (Why it is done)

For the purpose of exploitation, this includes exploiting the prostitution of others, sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery or similar practices and the removal of organs.

Child Sex Trafficking is the trafficking of children for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

Among key international legal instruments, the Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989 mentions child trafficking in Article 11 line 1, stipulating that “illicit transfer and non-return of children” is forbidden.


It is estimated that sex trafficking is one of the world’s fastest growing criminal industries, generating an estimated $150 billion a year. According to the 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report released by the US State Department based on 187 country narratives, an estimated 24.9 million people are being trafficked currently. Of these 77% of the victims are exploited by the traffickers in their home country. Both this report, and the Global Trafficking in Persons 2018 Report released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), agree that there has been an increase in the detection of traffickers and victims around the world, though there have been very limited detections in the South Asian region. According to the UNODC report 59% of the victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation, while an estimated 30% of those sex trafficked are children.

According to Global Law Enforcement Data, in the 2019 TIP Report, 85613 victims have been identified in 2018, while 11,096 offenders were prosecuted. According to the UNODC report, 99% of the sex trafficked victims in South Asia were trafficked within their countries. Of the persons arrested for trafficking in Nepal (2016) and Sri Lanka (2017) 79% were male and 21% female.

“…Traffickers exploit boys and girls in commercial sex in coastal areas for child sex tourism, including in hotels, on beaches, and during annual festivals. Reports allege some hotels allow clients to book “services” with children for child sex tourism, and some hotels use intermediaries to provide their guests with males and females—including those younger than 18—for commercial sex. In addition to foreign tourists— including from Germany, Russia, India, and China—researchers report significant local demand for child sex tourism… NCPA alleged a state-run orphanage, in collaboration with tuk-tuk drivers, exploited children from the orphanage in child sex trafficking…” – 2019 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, Country Narrative- Sri Lanka: Tier 2 Watch List


While any child can be targeted by a trafficker, research has shown that traffickers often target children with increased vulnerabilities, including: 

  • Children who are chronically missing or who frequently run away (especially 3+ missing incidents)
  • Children who have experienced childhood sexual abuse, especially if the abuse was unreported or unaddressed, or resulted in the child being removed from the home
  • Children who have experienced prior sexual assault or rape  
  • Children with significant substance abuse issues or who live with someone who has significant substance abuse issues
  • Children who are identify as LGBTQ and have been kicked out or who have been stigmatized by their family.
  • Children from troubled homes or single parent families (or even families where one or more parents have gone overseas for work)


Behavioural Signs

  • Significant change in behaviour, including increased mobile and internet usage, or a new group of friends
  • Avoiding answering questions or letting others speak for him or her
  • Child appears frightened, resistant, or belligerent to law enforcement 
  • Child lies about his or her age and identity
  • Child looks to others before answering questions
  • Child does not ask for help or resists offers to get out of the situation (child does not self-identify as a victim)
  • Child seems coached in talking to law enforcement
  • Child is preoccupied with “getting money” (e.g., displaying photos of cash)

Physical Signs

  • Child has multiple mobile phones, electronic devices, and/or branded clothing and accessories
  • Child has large amounts of cash
  • Multiple children are present with an unrelated male or female
  • Child seems to have excessive sexual knowledge or has sexual material
  • There is evidence the child has been or will be traveling (child is living out of suitcases, at motels, or in a car)
  • Child has a name or symbol tattooed, burned, or branded onto his or her body, particularly when coupled with the child’s reluctance to explain the tattoo.
  • Child references traveling to other cities or states or is not from the current location; the child may also lack knowledge of his or her travel plans, destinations, and/or his or her current location.
  • Presence of an overly controlling or abusive “boyfriend” or older female
  • Child is recovered at a hotel, street, bus stop, or alley.
  • Child has notebooks or slips of paper containing phone numbers, money amounts, names, or addresses
  • Child has items or an appearance that does not fit his or her current situation (e.g., a homeless or slum area child who has money, electronics, new clothes or shoes, and who has his or her hair and nails done)
  • Child references traveling job opportunities (including modeling, singing and/or dancing)
  • Child has unaddressed medical issues or who chooses to go  to the doctor alone, or with an unrelated adult.


  • Call the police on 119
  • Stall the child and try to keep them with you
  • If you can’t, try to speak and get as many clues as to where they are staying, and who they are with.