There are untold millions of child victims of commercial sexual exploitation around the world (UNICEF, 2001). According to the U.S. government, some 20 million men, women and children may currently be victims of trafficking. There are no exact figures to indicate which percentage of these 20 million victims are trafficked for sexual purposes versus those trafficked for labor, organ removal or child soldiers. We do know, however, that Latin America is a primary source region for people trafficked to the United States and Canada, and that a very large percentage of the child victims are being bought and sold and used for sexual exploitation. Most of those exploited are for prostitution, but others are used for pornography and stripping. (Trafficking In Persons Report for Latin America & the Caribbean, Feb 2015)

In Costa Rica there were 33 child victims who were identified and given assistance in 2013. Only two of these children were given assistance with shelter. There are no statistics for how many victims did not receive assistance, though we know from our partner organizations who work with victims in the street that the numbers of child victims not receiving care are in at least the thousands. The government admits there are many other victims, but a lack of resources and an ongoing mistrust of the police both contribute to the lack of identification of – and assistance for – these victims. More information on this can be found in US State Department Trafficking in Persons Report – 2015 and the Trafficking in Persons in Latin America & the Caribbean Report, Feb 2015.

Though the majority of these child victims are abused at the hands of their families and locals, it’s important to note that many of these child victims are being used for child sex tourism. It’s estimated that 10% of tourists to Costa Rica engage in sex tourism.

Out of the tourists who come to Costa Rica to have sex, it is estimated that 80% come from the United States and Canada.


  1. Vargas, Otto (7 April 2008). “Red trajo al país más de 400 dominicanas para prostitución” (in Spanish). La Nación. Retrieved 7 April 2008.
  2. Jump up^ Schifter-Sikora, Jacobo (2006). Mongers in Heaven: Sexual Tourism and HIV Risk in Costa Rica and in the United States. University Press of America. ISBN 978-0-7618-3597-4.
  3. Jump up^ Schmidt, Blake (27 July 2007). “Businesses Say No to Sex Tourism Industry”. Tico Times.