Child exploitation: a complex and growing global phenomenon

In Mexico, forced begging and sexual exploitation have been documented. On the occasion of World Day Against Child Slavery, 20 million children in Mexico live in poverty.

Child exploitation: a complex and growing global phenomenon
In Mexico, forced begging and child labor have been documented. Photos: UNAM

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimates that there are 400 million girls and boys in the world who are subjected to the worst forms of child labor exploitation, being enslaved in degrading and dangerous jobs for their health and development.

According to the academic of the National School of Social Work (ENTS) of the UNAM, Carmen Gabriela Ruiz Serrano, in the case of Mexico, the percentage of children who are exploited is unknown, a situation that has worsened in the post-pandemic period.

The international organization documented the worst forms of child labor in which the use of this sector of the population in mining and agricultural fields is identified, and now in its use for forced begging, where there is a marked expression in Mexico.

Regarding World Day against Child Slavery, which is commemorated on April 16, Ruiz Serrano indicates: that unfortunately, the national territory presents a complex situation because minors -who represent one-third of the population- live in vulnerable conditions.

"We have approximately 40 million children in the national territory, and of these, half of them live in conditions of poverty and are unable to satisfy their basic needs; concerning indigenous children, nine out of 10 are also unable to exercise and satisfy their rights", she points out.

In Mexico, forced begging (conduct aimed at forcing a person to ask for resources in public spaces, under a denigrating aspect), and sexual exploitation have been documented.

It is known about the unfortunate increase in child pornography, especially in the last two years, although there are no reliable figures to account for this; there are associations that have even said that there has been an increase of 300 percent.

Children are being enslaved in degrading and dangerous jobs.
Children are being enslaved in degrading and dangerous jobs.

The specialist in Human Trafficking of the ENTS also relates that there are spaces or places such as factories where child labor is used. "Children are kept for long hours in the maquila because their little hands are very thin, and that allows them to baste more carefully".

And she adds: "As we can see, the panorama is not at all encouraging in the face of these impoverished, precarious scenarios, and also today permeated by organized crime, by violence, it seems that we do not have a future that is very certain for our children".

Child labor exploitation
Child labor exploitation

The ephemeris

When we refer to child slavery we necessarily link it with the term exploitation, which is situated in the exposure of minors who find themselves in working conditions where their human rights are compromised. Slavery has been conceptually developed in an analogy with human trafficking, and currently trafficking is a complex phenomenon, to which at least 11 purposes are recognized, so it does not only address sexual exploitation but a range of purposes.

On April 16, 1996, Iqbal Masih was murdered by carpet mafias in Pakistan. He was only 12 years old and had spent most of his life enslaved in factories. At the age of 10, he decided to join a group of activists against child exploitation and succeeded in shutting down several companies that exploited children. His activism improved the living conditions of many children.