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ECPAT country monitoring report: Status of action against commercial sexual exploitation of children in the UK

Posted on Jan 3, 2014

Despite being one of the world’s richest countries, the United Kingdom (UK) faces many challenges when it comes to protecting children from commercial sexual exploitation.  The effects of the global economic crisis have led to an increase in child poverty within the country and strains on government resources could potentially contribute to an increase in the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

Recently, the UK foster care system has faced scrutiny for failing to adequately protect children in its care from commercial sexual exploitation. Police figures show that an estimated 10,000 children go missing from foster care each year. These children are especially vulnerable to sexual exploitation and other abuses. In one high profile case, nine men were jailed for being part of a child sexual exploitation ring.  One of the victims was in foster care at the time she suffered the abuse and all of the victims had interacted with social services at some point in their lives.

The UK also continues to be a significant transit and destination country for child trafficking, with child victims coming from all over the world including Nigeria, Congo, Vietnam, Romania, Slovakia and Bulgaria. In addition, child sexual abuse material/ child pornography continues to be a serious problem in the UK. One recent report, using data from law enforcement agencies in just 5 out of 43 counties, revealed that 26 million images depicting child sexual abuse has been confiscated during the last 2 years.

The UK government has made strides in addressing many of these problems, including an inquiry into children who go missing from foster care and increased efforts to limit the distribution of child pornography. However, more action is needed. To understand more about the commercial sexual exploitation of children in the United Kingdom, you can read the full report here: