Most Canadians generally ignore prostitution. Some women of the night, however, are not women at all but young girls and children. Child prostitutes are more common than one may think; about 2 million children are forced into the commercial sex market every year. Child prostitutes can be found around the world, including throughout Canada and the United States. They suffer through violations that no child should ever experience and if they do survive the experience they suffer physical and psychological damage for the rest of their lives.
Child prostitution is a form of sexual abuse involving the commercial sexual exploitation of children in which a child performs sexual acts in exchange for some form of payment. Most countries have strict laws surrounding the sexual exploitation of children and so many customers engage in what is known as child sex tourism, travelling to foreign countries to evade the laws within their home country. Technology has also allowed children to be prostituted over the internet, increasing the rates of child pornography and human trafficking across the globe. Child prostitution is rarely a personal choice and is generally a form of organized crime run by an individual pimp or, more commonly, by a large-scale sex ring.
Child prostitutes can be any age. The children are most often between 11 and 18 years of age but some may be as young as 18 months. These children usually come from broken homes and are lured by seemingly kind older men who promise them food and shelter. These men then become their pimps and exploit the children for their own financial gain. Child prostitutes are poorly paid if they are paid at all, kept in unsanitary conditions, denied healthcare, and are constantly watched and kept subservient. Child prostitutes are commonly threatened and abused both physically and psychologically. Pimps also use drugs as a tactic. The pimp will invite the child to a party and provide them with their first taste of drugs. The child then becomes hooked and will perform prostitution services in exchange for more of the drug. Alternatively, the pimp may find a child who is already a drug user and promise to feed their fix in exchange for ‘work’. Many Canadian neighbourhoods that are plagued by prostitution blame child prostitution on drug addiction.
A pimp is an agent of prostitutes who makes money off the prostitutes’ earnings. Under law, pimps are referred to as procurers and the act of procuring is a crime. Pimping generally runs as a business with a violent internal structure. The pimp, usually male but may also be a female, uses violence and threats to keep control of their prostitutes. This may include sexual assault, physical abuse such as beating, or “trunking” which is locking the prostitute in the trunk of a car for hours.
There is a hierarchy among pimps ranging from the newcomers and least respected pimps (“wannabes” or “popcorn pimps”) to pimps that liberally use violence (“Jonas pimps”) to pimps who excel in psychological manipulation – especially of young prostitutes (“finesse pimps”). Prostitutes are, supposedly, allowed to move between pimps but because obtaining and maintaining a selection of prostitutes is so important pimps will often “brand” their prostitutes with tattoos to mark ownership and beat any prostitute who so much as looks at another pimp.
Sex rings range from local to national and international. In 2005, police uncovered a child prostitution ring in Winnipeg. The bawdy house was run by two women and 30 children were victimized there. Twenty children aged 12-16 were forced to perform sexual acts while 11 others, some as young as 18 months, were believed to have witnessed sexual acts within the home. Rosalind Prober, the president of Beyond Borders, told the media that she was not surprised that women were the procurers in this situation. She stated that today it is common for women to be involved in the illegal sex trade, especially because many of the exploited become the exploiters.
In June 2009, authorities arrested what they deemed was one of the world’s most dangerous pedophiles, Canadian born Arthur Sayler, who ran a massive sex ring spanning from Mexico to Canada. Sayler had lived in Tijuana for over 20 years. Authorities recovered more than 4 million videos of children engaged in sexual acts from his computer hard drives.
In May 2010, Canadian born John Wrenshall pleaded guilty to running an international sex ring. The 63-year-old moved to Thailand over a decade previous after facing two convictions for sex-related charges involving young boys in his hometown of Calgary. Wrenshall lived in Bangkok from 2000 until 2008 when he was arrested in London’s Heathrow airport after an international manhunt. Wrenshall had been running a brothel in Thailand, corresponding with potential clients from the U.S. by e-mailing price lists and telling them to make sure to bring “lots of bubblebath” and other items that were hard to get in Thailand.
Customers: The Johns
The customers, or “johns”, can be anyone but are commonly white-collar workers and the majority (over 90%) are male. They may partake in child prostitution within their home country but many also travel to other countries. The johns tend to prefer children because of their innocence, they are easier to control and they are less likely to have an STI. The majority of these johns are pedophiles but some just take advantage of the situation when a child is made available to them.
- sexual abuse
- physical abuse that may result in serious injury or even death
- STIs as serious as HIV/AIDS
- drug addiction or substance abuse
- in cases of human trafficking, they may be detained as an ‘illegal aliens’
The child may face long-term physical health problems caused by sexual abuse. This may include internal injury and reproductive problems for females. If a child prostitute does get pregnant she is unlikely to carry to full term and the newborn is likely to have developmental setbacks and a high infant mortality rate. If the child does survive, the young mother is unlikely to be able to care for it properly and the child may fall victim to the same problems as the mother in what is termed the chain effect. Child prostitutes are also known to face profound psychological damage. They feel as if they can trust no one and often feel worthless. Psychological trauma is a huge danger of child prostitution and can result in depression, anti-social behaviour, anxiety, dissociation, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Child prostitutes may engage in self-mutilation and be prone to suicidal tendencies; many child prostitutes do not make it to adulthood.
Human Trafficking For Sexual Purposes In Canada
Canada is a source, transit, and destination country for human trafficking. It is estimated that 800 or more people are trafficked to Canada on an annual basis, with an additional 1500-2200 individuals trafficked through Canada en route to the United States. The majority of these victims are from Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa and brought into British Columbia. Canadian children are also the victims of trafficking, especially aboriginal girls. The girls tend to be around 14-16 years of age, although reports show that ages are dropping to around 12. The girls are usually taken across border by older men and women posing as grandparents or by other women posing as mothers or aunts.
Canada and 190 countries including the United States, Australia, India, Ireland, Iran, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, and New Zealand are signatories on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The CRC is a human rights convention monitored by the United Nations and sets out the civil, political, economic, and cultural rights of children. Under the CRC, Canada has agreed to provide any trafficked children with special protection, assistance, and attention.
Prostitution itself is not found in the criminal code but there are several sections surrounding the business aspect of prostitution, some specific to the prostitution or exploitation of children, which are included in the Code. Furthermore, with the recent passing of the Safe Streets and Communities Act, the mandatory minimum penalties for many of these crimes were increased, in addition to the making of a new offense. The sections of the Criminal Code that are applicable to the prostitution of children include:
- § 170
- Parent or guardian procuring sexual activity: Procuring is a legal term equivalent to “pimping.” This is one of the offenses in which the mandatory minimum penalty was raised- a person convicted of this offense is now liable to a maximum prison term of 10 years and a minimum term of 1 year if the person procured was less than 16 years old. If the person was between 16 and 18 years old, the maximum penalty is 5 years and the minimum penalty is 6 months.
- § 171
- Home owner permitting sexual activity of person under 18 years old for a purpose prohibited in the Criminal Code: This means that a home owner can be charge with a criminal offense for allowing any sexual activity of a minor that is against the law (for example, sexual assault, exploitation, invitation to sexual touching, etc.). The maximum penalty for this offense relating to a child under 16 years is 5 years imprisonment, with the mandatory minimum penalty of 6 months. For a child between the ages of 16 and 18 years, the maximum penalty is 2 years with a mandatory minimum penalty of 90 days.
- § 172.2
- making an agreement or arrangement through any means of telecommunication to commit an offense under section 151 (sexual interference), 152 (invitations to sexual touching), 153(1) (sexual exploitation), 170 (parents procuring sexual activity), 171 (householder permitting sexual activity), 212 (2) (procuring sexual activity for the purposes of exploitation), 212 (2) (living on the avails of prostitution of a person under the age of 18). (*Note: there are also other offenses included in this section, but these are the ones related to the prostitution of a child).
- § 210
- Keeping common bawdy house: Keeping a common bawdy house is an indictable offense and may result in imprisonment for a term of 2 years. There are also subsections relating to the landlord of the building and any occupiers or tenants.
- § 211
- Transporting a person to a bawdy house: Transporting or directing an individual to a common bawdy house is an offense punishable by summary conviction.
- § 212
- Procuring: Procuring is the legal term for pimping and can result in a term of imprisonment of up to 10 years. Subsection 2 deals with living on the avails of prostitution of a person under 18 which can result in a term of imprisonment of no more than 14 years. Subsection 4 pertains to the offense of prostitution of a person under 18 and states that any individual who communicates with anyone for the purpose of receiving sexual services from a person under 18 is liable to a term of imprisonment of up to 5 years.
- § 7 (4.1)
- Offense in relation to sexual offenses against children: This section applies to anyone who resides in Canada and commits an offense outside of Canada’s borders. § 212(4) is included in the list of offenses that the individual will be held responsible for in Canada, even if the act was committed outside of Canadian borders.
- § 467.1
- ‘Criminal Organizations’: a criminal organization is defined in the criminal code as a group that:
- is composed of 3 or more persons in or outside of Canada and;
- has as one of its main purposes or main activities the facilitation or commission of one or more serious offenses that, if committed, would likely result in the direct or indirect receipt of a material benefit, including a financial benefit, by the group or any persons who constitute the group.
Child prostitution is a unique form of child abuse that is often hidden from the public eye. It is not just limited to developing countries, child prostitution it is a global issue. These children rarely choose to engage in prostitution services but instead are tricked or lured into the business. Once in the business, the children face traumatic psychological and physical abuse that no person, much less a child, should ever experience. Those children that are lucky enough to escape remain traumatized for the rest of their lives. However, not all child prostitutes are able to escape the business. Many do not survive to adulthood or remain sex workers forever.
Aebi, Renata. “The trafficking in Children for the purpose of prostitution: British Columbia, Canada.” 2001. http://www.vancouver.sfu.ca/freda/articles/traf1.htm
Barnett, Laura. “Prostitution in Canada: Internation Obligations, Federal Law,. And Provincial and Municipal Jurisdiction.” Library of Parliament. February 2008. http://www2.parl.gc.ca/content/lop/researchpublications/prb0330-e.htm
Canadian Criminal Code 2009.
CBC News. “Drugs Blamed for Child Prostition.” January 2008. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/drugs-blamed-for-child-prostitution-1.701356
CTV News. “:Police Say 30 Kids Involved in Winnipeg Sex Ring.” November 3, 2005. http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/Canada/20051102/wpg_sexring_051102/
Lim, Lin Lean. “The Sex Sector: The economic and social bases of prostitution insouth-east Asia.” 1998. http://books.google.ca/books?id=VFNKZbL1jWwC&pg=PA178&lpg=PA178&dq=long-term++health+dangers+of+child+prostitution&source=bl&ots=w6MYqbvpOe&sig=3Ire-9Ch4-P9spuPiegDer6rbX8&hl=en&ei=u6RBTa20G4WclgelhPjlDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CDUQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=psychological%20effects&f=false
Raaflaub, Tim Riordan. “Human Trafficking.” Library of Parliament. November 2006. http://www2.parl.gc.ca/content/lop/researchpublications/prb0425-e.htm
RCMP. “Serious and Organized Crime.” Retrieved September 30, 2016. http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/soc-cgco/index-eng.htm
The Inquiry. “Canadian Pleads Guilty to Running Child Sex Ring.” May, 2010. http://www.theinquiry.ca/wordpress/child-porn/canadian-pleads-guilty-to-running-child-sex-ring/
Yutango, Precious. “Global kid-porn ring cracked.” http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/658141