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Widespread poverty in Burkina Faso leaves children vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation

Posted on May 29, 2013

Burkina Faso has a population of over 15 million people with children accounting for over fifty percent. In 2005, 57 percent of the population were living below the international poverty line of 1.25 USD per day, making it one of the world’s poorest nations. Civil war in neighbouring countries and the effects of prolonged extreme weather on agricultural production have contributed to poverty among residents, particularly those living in rural areas. As with other countries experiencing high rates of poverty, the risk of commercial sexual exploitation for children is exacerbated as a result of the economic disparity within Burkina Faso. Children from poor families are often hired out by their parents to work as servants leaving them vulnerable to sexual exploitation by their employers. The widespread prevalence of AIDS and other diseases has left 1 million children orphaned. Many of these children, without guardianship, are forced to live on the streets, vulnerable to sexual exploitation. To compound the issue, laws in Burkina Faso regarding the sexual exploitation of children lack clarity and are not applied consistently. In 2007, of the 30 court cases relating to the sexual exploitation of a child, none made it to trial. Although Burkina Faso is a signatory of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography there are no clear mechanisms in place to adequately coordinate the actions needed to implement the Optional Protocol. To understand more about the commercial sexual exploitation of children in Burkina Faso and what more needs to be done, you can read the full report in French here.