According to the Russian National Consultation on the Commercial Sexual
Exploitation of Children, Russia is now one of the main producers of
pornography in the world, and registers a significant number of incidents
related to child prostitution or child trafficking for sexual purposes.
Although the real number is difficult to assess, experts believe that tens of
thousands of children are involved in the production of pornographic materials
in Russia today. These materials are frequently produced by small criminal
groups, each fulfilling a specific task to keep the costs of production low
compared to those of a regular startup business. The production and consumption
of these materials are particularly pronounced in big cities such as Moscow and
According to experts, almost a quarter of the pornography on global Internet
sites contains child pornography. Among these, almost 50 percent include child
pornography from Russia. Nowadays, it is possible to buy videocassettes of
child pornography at any railway station or in several stores in these cities.
St. Petersburg and the northwest region of Russia report a high incidence of
sex tourism, which is widely advertised on the Internet and aimed at people
from neighboring Scandinavian countries. Prostitution is the most common form
of child exploitation in the region.
Frequent recruiting targets are street children or children from dysfunctional
families. Once they're entrapped, they may end up in brothels and red-light
districts as they get older. Recruiters prey on these children's situations,
deceiving them into a life of dependency.
In Russia, many young prostitutes are from the provinces or from the former
Soviet republics. They come to Moscow or to St. Petersburg hoping to hide in
the anonymity of the population. Occasionally pregnant or with children, and
with scant education or skills, they see prostitution as an essential tool for
Children engaged in prostitution frequently belong to families in extreme
poverty, and characterized by alcohol and drug addiction or a hostile family
atmosphere. In other cases, they are orphans who have made the street their
Many adults sexually abuse children in the belief that children are protected
against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. However, children are
less prone to practice safe sex, either because they don't think they need to
or because they are unable to oppose the will of adults with whom they deal.
Because of the transnational character of transactions involving children, it
is imperative to strengthen international collaboration to counter child sexual
abuse. At the same time, although Russia has signed and ratified important
international conventions, such as the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the
Child, it has not yet developed a national plan of action against "commercial
sexual exploitation of children."
The Angel Coalition, the only Russian nongovernmental organization working
solely to combat human trafficking, has produced a program called "Inhuman
Traffic" with the collaboration of actress Angelina Jolie. The documentary
gives a compelling view of the tragedy of the trafficking of women and girls
for sexual exploitation in Europe and offers insight into how the chain of
trafficking can be broken. It should be required viewing for government
officials charged with controlling this scourge.
Cesar Chelala, M.D., is an international public health consultant and a
co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award for an article on human
rights. He is the author of "AIDS: A Modern Epidemic."