Taal document


18 apr 2015




Sexual exploitation


Center for the Study of Democracy

Child trafficking among vulnerable Roma communities


18 apr 2015

The current publication presents a study on child trafficking conducted in seven EU member states: Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Romania and Slovakia. The study looks at three specific forms of trafficking in persons: child trafficking for begging, for pickpocketing and for sexual exploitation of boys and the way they manifest themselves among Roma communities.

Expert opinions reveal a significant overrepresentation of Roma children among the victims of trafficking for begging and pick-pocketing. While trafficking for sexual exploitation of boys is the most hidden and least studied phenomenon, victim caseloads in Bulgaria, one of the two main source countries of trafficking victims to the EU, reveals that one fifth of the victims trafficked for sexual exploitation are boys. This factor, together with previous field observations of vulnerabilities of prostituting Roma minors to child trafficking, determined that sexual exploitation of boys would be the third form of trafficking to be studied.

Prostitution of Roma boys and transgender persons was detected in the countries Italy, Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia, typically considered as origin countries for victims of trafficking. Previous studies in Bulgaria reveal a growing number of Roma transgender persons selling sexual services on the street. This phenomenon is attributed to the relative lack of stigma towards same sex sexual activities within the Roma communities studied and were also explained by a pattern of impoverished men engaging in sex for money.  According to a report on HIV and sex work, most of the transgender sex workers are transvestites of Roma origin, working in hidden environments, due to the stigma attached to male prostitution. Roma boys enter prostitution as minors and some of them are HIV positive and suffer heroin addiction.

Boy and transgender prostitution is also present in Roma communities in Hungary, Slovakia and Romania. However, there are no estimations regarding the approximate ratio between Roma and non-Roma. In Slovakia, Roma boys increasingly enter the sex markets either as homosexuals or transvestites. Their clients are mainly random tourists, visitors to restaurants or random drivers passing the localities. Boys and transgender persons who could become victims of forced prostitution in Slovakia are most frequently in the age range of 17 to 19 years, but identified cases in the qualitative study show the lowest age at 15 years. Those who offer sexual services meet together and have created a tight-knit community, where they exchange „job offers“. Similar tight communities were noticed also in segregated Roma neighbourhoods in Bulgaria.

In Hungary, “hidden prostitution” of underage males is reported as increasing the risk of child trafficking. Young boys and girls are used for prostitution and they are taken directly to clients by their pimps, thus avoiding the visibility of street prostitution. The youngest victim identified through occasional interviews was firstly exploited at the age of 9.