Teenagers have always been involved in prostitution, but there’s increasing evidence that young people are getting involved on the business side of the trade -- teenaged girls are serving as pimps for other young girls. And social media are helping make it possible.
Nowhere is the trend more pronounced than in Indonesia, where human trafficking and sex tourism involve up to 70,000 children each year, according to the U.N. International Labor Organization.
What’s new, however, are reports of girls as young as 14 serving as sex solicitors for other young girls. Indonesia’s National Commission for Child Protection report 21 girls between 14 and 16 years of age have been caught working as “mamis” so far this year.
“Even just two years ago, there was not much evidence of children pimping other children,” said Andrea Bertone, Director of HumanTrafficking.org. Bertone says the leap from victim to entrepreneur has been made easy for those savvy in the use of their smartphones.
Young people can use text messages and social media to book clients and make transactions, experts explain. Standing on dark street corner wearing a short skirt and stiletto heels is no longer a prerequisite.
In some ways, that helps to make child prostitution an invisible crime.
Bertone says society needs to address the needs of those children who become involved in prostitution.
“I think the biggest problem is that girls in Indonesian society are not valued,” Bertone said. “They don’t have opportunities like boys do and they’ll turn to ways to make money that aren’t going to be the most healthy.”
Bertone encourages authorities to introduce other ways of engaging young girls in more productive ways. “Yes, it will be hard,” she said. “ If no one tries, then this is going to happen much more often because the money is a huge draw.”
Indonesia isn’t the only country reporting the phenomenon of teen pimps. A web search found reports going back five years where authorities had arrested or charged teenagers for recruiting other teen girls for prostitution in at least a dozen countries, including the United States and Canada.