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Report Warns of Greater Risk of Sexual Exploitation of Children

A new report by a global child rights group warns that the economic downturn increases the risk of sexual exploitation of children.

ECPAT International says the downturn raises a specter of increased child sexual exploitation as traffickers lure poor families with cash.

Carmen Madrinan is executive director of ECPAT International, which released its latest report in Bangkok Thursday.

"The report raises great concern that the current economic downturn, which is forecast to swell the ranks of the poor - those living on less than $2 a day … will push more children into vulnerable situations and increase the risk of trafficking and sexual exploitation," said Madrinan.

The report, which was supported by the British cosmetics retailer Body Shop, says as incomes fall, pressure increases for children to bring income for the family. That makes them vulnerable to risky forms of work.

ECPAT says more than a million children worldwide are trafficked for sexual purposes each year.

In Asia, the report highlights what it calls "alarming flows" of cross-border trafficking in South Asia, with India the main destination. It says as many as 7,000 Nepalese girls are trafficked to India for sexual exploitation every year.

The Greater Mekong region also is identified as a main hub for trafficking, with boys and girls from Cambodia, China's Yunnan province, Laos, Burma and Vietnam as well as ethnic minorities from northern Thailand brought to Thai cities.

But the report also noted that internal trafficking - when children are taken from rural areas to the cities - has become a growing trend.

Najat M'jid Maalla is the United Nations special rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. She says the demand for sex with children continues to grow because of social tolerance and indifference.

"We must adopt the mantra: 'A single child is one child too many,'" she said.

The report says global profit from the trafficking of people into forced commercial sex reaches nearly $28 billion a year, with almost half of that going to traffickers in industrialized countries.