ECPAT International’s latest country overview report for Czechia, also known as the Czech Republic, warns that the number of reported cases of child sexual exploitation through prostitution continued to grow in 2017.
The report warns that police crackdowns and a prohibition on public solicitation has driven the industry underground in recent years – from the streets to less visible places such as private apartments. This development has made it easier for those who would harm children. Organizers now often advertise their “services” online where it’s easier to exploit children without getting caught.
As with trends seen globally, victims in Czechia are getting younger. In 2016, there were three known cases of children sexually exploited in prostitution who were below the age of three.
A total of 23 cases were reported in 2016, an increase from 15 in 2015. Of the 23 cases, 19 were of girls, and four were boys.
Sexual harassment also continues to be a problem, including for children. Girls as young as 13 are often reportedly propositioned and harassed in public.
At the same time, the new report says that according to the police, the majority of children trafficked to the country ended up being sexually exploited – either through prostitution or in the production of child sexual abuse material. Between 2012 and 2015, children comprised more than half the identified victims of sex trafficking.
121 out of 198 trafficking victims were children.
Humanitarian crises like the conflict in Syria have increased the number of unaccompanied refugee children passing through Czechia. This group, along with those running away from residential care, are at particularly high risk of sexual exploitation says the report. Offenders are always on the lookout for vulnerable children, and these children are easy targets.
Czechia has also seen an unprecedented increase in tourists, receiving more than 20 million visitors in 2017. The country’s nightlife attracts many visitors, and tourists engaging in the sex industry may be, unwittingly, putting children at risk of exploitation says the report. While there is a clear need for protecting children from travelling child sex offenders, no action has yet been taken by the government.
Although the Czech government made some efforts to raise awareness about the trafficking and online sexual abuse of children, the report says that there have been no official measures to protect children from travelling sex offenders or prostitution. A national plan of action to combat the sexual exploitation of children is urgently needed it warns, as well as an independent ombudsperson investigating complaints made by children. At present, Czechia is the only EU member without an ombudsperson for children.