Netherlands criticized for lenient child sex trafficking policy

Customers of underage prostitutes rarely ended up in court over the past 15 years. And those that did got lower sentences than the guidelines. 

This is according to a study done by the National Rapporteur on Human Trafficking and Sexual Violence against children, titled Engaging the Customer.

Between the years 2000 and 2015, only 177 individuals were identified as suspects for paying for sex with children aged 16 or 17 years old. 93 of them eventually appeared in court, and only 61 were convicted. A large part of these trials happened this year.

The Rapporteur believes that the number of suspects should be much higher. Especially given that over the past five years, 592 underage children between the ages of 16 and 17 years, both boys and girls, were registered as possible victims of human trafficking that ended up in the sex industry. This means that these kids had paid sex with at least one customer. If kids below the age of 16 are also taken into account, the number of victims increases to 592. "That means that there were many more than 177 customers the past 15 years. Thousands", Corine Dettmeijer of the National Rapporteur said to newspaper AD.

The law against having paid sex with 16 and 17 year olds was implemented in the year 2000. The law is aimed at protecting these kids against prostitution even though they are considered "sexual adults". But up until this year, very few of these kids clients ever faced a trial. In 2015 the Public Prosecutor charged 90 suspects, including 25 men involved in the Valkenburg teen prostitution case and 12 men charged with having sex with a 16 year old girl in a cellar in Schiedam.

Most of these men came away with punishments way below the average guidelines. For example, many of the suspects in the Valkenburg case was sent home with community service, while the guideline suggests an unconditional prison sentence of up to four years.

The report also looked at the victims and customers to see if any trend can be found. They found that the victim group is diverse, both boys and girls fall victim to underage prostitution. And while the study mostly focused on 16 and 17 year olds, 169 children under the age of 16 also fell victim over the past 5 years. The youngest child was 11 years old. The locations where customers have sex with minors also vary - in homes, cars, hotels, parks or cellars. Several minors were also found in regulated prostitution, such as sex clubs and window brothels.

All 177 of the customers were men, though here too the ages varied widely - from underage customers to men in their mid sixties. Eight out of ten suspects are of Dutch descent and the vast majority had no previous criminal record. Their backgrounds vary from normal married men to men with personality disorders, alcohol problems or tendencies towards pedophilia.

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