Tag Archives: Child Exploitation

Zimbabwe Child Brides Fight Back in Court

Across sub-Saharan Africa, 40 percent of women are married as children.

Across sub-Saharan Africa, 40 percent of women are married as children.

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Two former child brides have taken Zimbabwe’s government to court in a ground-breaking bid to get child marriages declared illegal and unconstitutional.

Loveness Mudzuru and Ruvimbo Tsopodzi say child marriage, which is rife in Zimbabwe, is a form of child abuse which traps girls in lives of poverty and suffering.

“I’ve faced so many challenges. My husband beat me. I wanted to stay in school but he refused. It was very, very terrible,” said Tsopodzi, a mother of one, who was married at 15.

“I want to take this action to make a difference,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Harare on Tuesday. “There are a lot of children getting married.”

Data published last year indicates one third of girls in Zimbabwe marry before their 18th birthday and 5 percent before they turn 15.

Child marriage deprives girls of education and opportunities, jeopardizes their health and increases the risks of exploitation, sexual violence, domestic abuse and death or serious injury in childbirth.

In their statements to the Constitutional Court, Tsopodzi and Mudzuru, now 19 and 20, say Zimbabwe’s Marriage Act is discriminatory because it sets the minimum age at 16 for girls and 18 for boys. The Customary Marriage Act sets no minimum age.

They say the law should be brought into line with Zimbabwe’s 2013 constitution as well as regional and international treaties banning child marriage.

The 2013 constitution says every child under 18 has the right to parental care, education and protection from “economic and sexual exploitation”.

It does not set a minimum marriage age, but states that no one should be forced to marry against their will and indicates that 18 is the minimum age for starting a family.


Poverty is the driving force behind child marriage in Zimbabwe. Parents often marry girls off so they have one less mouth to feed. Dowry payments may be a further incentive.

Some communities also see child marriage as a way of protecting girls from having premarital sex.

In her affidavit, Mudzuru described how child marriage and poverty create a vicious circle.

“Young girls who marry early and often in poor families are then forced to produce young children in a sea of poverty and the cycle begins again,” she stated.

Mudzuru, who was married at 16 and had two children before she was 18, said her life was “hell” and she spent her days trapped in drudgery.

“My life is really tough. Raising a child when you are a child yourself is hard,” she said by phone from her home in Harare. “I should be going to school.”

The girls’ lawyer, former finance minister Tendai Biti, presented the legal challenge in January.

Beatrice Savadye, who heads rights group ROOTS which is backing the ground-breaking case, said it had generated a lot of interest both inside Zimbabwe and in other countries in the region.

She said it was unclear when the court would give its decision, but that it had to rule within six months.

Globally, some 15 million girls are married off every year. Across sub-Saharan Africa, 40 percent of women are married as children.



Ex Girlfriend of Convicted Pedophile Rocker Cleared of Child Abuse Images

‘I went through hell because police couldn’t be a***d to do their jobs’: Ex-girlfriend of Ian Watkins hits out as she is cleared of child porn offences after court hears she was trying to ENTRAP singer but detectives ignored her warnings
  • Joanne Mjadzelics, 39, was accused of possessing child porn images
  • A jury found her not guilty of the charges at Cardiff Crown Court
  • She claims her repeat warnings about Ian Watkins were ignored by police 
  • ‘How many kids could have been saved if the police had done their job,’ she said outside court
  • Claimed that officer ‘couldn’t be a***d’ to investigate Watkins’ vile crimes
  • Mjadzelics says she was trying to entrap Watkins, who has since been jailed for abusing children 
  • She wept after the verdict and hit out at the police for pursuing her


Cleared: Joanne Mjadzelics, the ex-girlfriend of Ian Watkins was found not guilty of child porn charges

Cleared: Joanne Mjadzelics, the ex-girlfriend of Ian Watkins was found not guilty of child porn charges

The ex-girlfriend of paedophile rock star Ian Watkins blasted police for ignoring her repeat warnings about the star, as she was cleared of a string of child pornography charges.

Joanna Mjadzelics said she ‘went through hell’ after she was forced to take action herself because officers ‘couldn’t be a***d’ to investigate Watkins.

She had been accused of possessing indecent images of a child, sending vile pictures to the singer and demanding that he send her illegal pornography.

But following a trial at Cardiff Crown Court, a jury found the 39-year-old not guilty on all charges after she claimed she was trying to entrap her former lover and trick him into revealing his crimes.

 ‘It’s been me against the world, really,’ she said as she walked free from court.

‘Me protecting the kids when everyone else called me liar, psycho – everything else – lie after lie.

‘Let’s just see how many kids could have been saved if the police had done their job. I’ve nothing to say to the police. This was a vicious prosecution.’

Watkins, 37, is currently serving a 35-year prison sentence for sex offences including the attempted rape of a fan’s baby. Two women were jailed alongside him for assisting his crimes.

Ms Mjadzelics, from Doncaster, told the jury during her trial that she reported Watkins to the police, but they ignored her because she was a prostitute who was regarded as a ‘nut job’.

She insisted that she only engaged in lurid sexual conversations with the shamed star in a bid to collect evidence which would bring Watkins to justice.

The prosecution had claimed that she was obsessed with the singer, and would do anything to fuel his desires.

The court heard police seized the rock star’s computers and video tapes when he was arrested and discovered one titled ‘Jo Paedo Talk Cardiff’.

When they played the video they saw Watkins and Mjadzelics having sex and talking about having a baby together so they could abuse it, the court heard.

‘He had told me what to say,’ she told Channel 4 News after she was cleared.

‘He said talk about this, talk about that, tell me you’re going to kidnap children and I would just agree. At that point I was so totally in love with this guy but at the same time so confused.

‘I realised afterwards when I stopped taking cocaine and I sobered up, I realised afterwards everything that had been talked about and I thought no that’s wrong, that’s wrong.

‘I thought it was just coke talk. I thought that’s all it was. I thought that was just coke talking and I was just saying that to get him off.

‘Sounds really pathetic when I say it now but it was at the time to keep him interested. It sounds really ridiculous.’

The jury took 14 hours of deliberations to reach their not guilty verdict.

Ms Mjadzelics wept when judge Eleri Rees told her she was free to go, and said afterwards: ‘I shouldn’t have even been here – just for doing the the police’s job that they couldn’t be a***d to do.’

Her solicitor Dale Harris said: ‘This was a spiteful prosecution of a woman who, over a four-year period, single-handedly and doggedly pursued a campaign to force the sleeping authorities to wake up to the reality of the appalling crimes against children she feared Ian Watkins was committing.

‘In December 2008, Ms Mjadzelics first reported Watkins to both South Wales Police and to social services.

‘But instead of taking her claims seriously, the police rejected them and dismissed her allegations as those of a disguntled ex-partner with mental health issues.

‘The initial flawed inquiry infected every subsequent report she made to the police.’

Ignored Warnings

Vindicated: Ms Mjadzelics said after her acquittal that the police had been 'vicious' in their treatment of her

Vindicated: Ms Mjadzelics said after her acquittal that the police had been ‘vicious’ in their treatment of her

He drew attention to the ‘actions and inactions’ of the police and other authorities, saying: ‘As the court heard, in private, the police thanked her for bringing Watkins and his accomplices to justice.

‘In public, however, they shunned her and, instead, they prosecuted for the efforts she made to ensnare him.

‘It will be for others to judge whether children could have been spared the horrific abuse to which they were undoubtedly subjected had the police taken seriously the concerns of Miss Mjadzelics some six years ago.’

 The defendant said during her trial that she had risked jail to expose Watkins, and continued to sleep with him in order to gather more evidence for the police.

The court heard that she reported Watkins to the authorities in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012 to raise the alarm over his child sex crimes.

She told police he had sent her images of a ‘very young girl being raped’, but they refused to examine her phone or computer.

Michael Wolkind QC, defending, told jurors that police chose not to investigate the allegations against Watkins because he was a famous musician.

‘Babies could have been saved if Joanne had been taken seriously but Watkins was a famous rock star so it was different,’ he said.

‘She wasn’t believed and it wasn’t properly investigated. What was she supposed to do?

‘If she had not kept on seeing Watkins would he and the two mothers be locked up now? No. She desperately played along with Watkins to track him.’

She said: 'He said talk about this, talk about that, tell me you're going to kidnap children and I would just agree. At that point I was so totally in love with this guy but at the same time so confused.'

She said: ‘He said talk about this, talk about that, tell me you’re going to kidnap children and I would just agree. At that point I was so totally in love with this guy but at the same time so confused.’

Ms Mjadzelics even wrote to Watkins’ mother warning her that her son was a paedophile, but ended up being accused of harassing his family and questioned by police in 2009.

When the pair next met in 2010, at a hotel in Leeds, Watkins opened his laptop and showed her a video of a ‘child crying and being raped’ while he had an ‘evil smirk’ on his face, the court was told.

She then decided she would have to trap the singer on her own and gather evidence against him.

She said: ‘We contacted each other again in May 2011 and by that time I had decided it was no good crying and sending him away anymore.

‘I had to basically change the game and change my reaction and play him. I went into escort mode, like with my clients, and I switched off.’

Jailed: Watkins, the former lead singer of Lostprophets, is serving a 35-year prison sentence for child abuse

Jailed: Watkins, the former lead singer of Lostprophets, is serving a 35-year prison sentence for child abuse

The court was read a series of graphic and disturbing messages exchanged by the pair that month, in which they fantasised about kidnapping and raping infants, while Watkins sent Ms Mjadzelics four pornographic images of children.

Despite having apparently been praised by the police for her actions, Ms Mjadzelics was arrested two years ago, and charged shortly after Watkins and his two accomplices pleaded guilty and were jailed in December 2013.

The Crown Prosecution Service defended the decision to pursue the case against Mjadzelics, while South Wales Police described the investigation as ‘extremely challenging and complex’.

Catrin Attwell of the CPS said: ‘The full circumstances surrounding this case have been aired in court.

‘The jury considered the matter for a considerable period of time and found Joanne Mjadzelics not guilty of the possession and distribution of indecent images of children. We of course respect that decision.

‘Our role is to consider the evidence gathered by police investigations and decide whether there is a realistic prospect of a conviction in court.’

Deputy Chief Constable Matt Jukes added: ‘Operation Globe is still continuing and we will work tirelessly to identify victims and help them seek the justice they deserve.

‘During the trial, police actions prior to the most recent investigation were discussed. In 2012 South Wales Police initiated its own review into the sequence of events prior to the arrest of Ian Watkins.

‘We identified that there were issues of concern and voluntarily referred the matter to the Independent Police Complaints Commission who is currently carrying out an investigation into these issues.’

The IPCC is investigating claims that officers from three different police forces failed to act on information about Watkins’ crimes.

Ms Mjadzelics told Channel 4 News of the disgraced Lost Prophets singer, 'He had told me what to say.'

Ms Mjadzelics told Channel 4 News of the disgraced Lost Prophets singer, ‘He had told me what to say.’


Late 2006: Lostprophets frontman Ian Watkins meets Joanne Mjadzelics online. After weeks of online sex chats, Watkins and Mjadzelics meet in person for the first time in December. They meet up for sex at a hotel in Leeds where they make a sex tape together.

July 2007: Mjadzelics says she starts ‘getting into’ cocaine, with her and Watkins having drug-fuelled sex sessions together. She later has the rock singer’s initials – IDKW – tattooed on her back.

August 2007: Mjadzelics says Watkins tells her about a sex session he had with a 14-year-old girl. Asked why she did not go to the police there and then about his confession, she said: ‘I thought it was the cocaine talking.’

September 2007: Watkins tells Mjadzelics he raped a 12-year-old girl after taking cocaine in the toilet with her. He later tells her he was only ‘joking’.

February 2008: Tape of Watkins and Mjadzelics depicts the pair having sex and talking about having a child together so they could rape and kill it. When questioned about the video, Mjadzelics says: ‘It’s fantasy talk.’

Early 2008: Mjadzelics says she and Watkins split. She blames an indecent photograph of a child which he had sent her on Christmas Day.

June 2008: Watkins takes Mjadzelics to meet his mother in Pontypridd. The pair stay at the St David’s Hotel in Cardiff.

October 2008: Mjadzelics agrees to sign a ‘gagging order’ drawn up by Watkins after she threatened to go to the police.

December 2008: Mjadzelics phones social services in south Wales regarding a photograph he sent the previous Christmas.

January 2009: Mjadzelics contacts social services again, as well as police about Watkins.

March 2009: Police in Yorkshire interview Mjadzelics at the request of South Wales Police.

May 2009: The police investigation into Mjadzelics’s initial claims about Watkins ends. She claimed she was turned away because officers regarded her as a ‘nut job’ fan who was harassing a famous rock star.

August 2010: After around a year without speaking to one another, Mjadzelics and Watkins meet up for sex. Mjadzelics apologises to Watkins, claiming that she ‘must have got things so wrong’. Two weeks later, Mjadzelics says Watkins shows her a video of a child being sexually abused. She says she goes to police again, and claims nothing was done.

May 2011: After becoming estranged from one another again, Mjadzelics resumes contact with Watkins. She says she did so to try to catch Watkins out – and aimed to get evidence on him. The pair resume their sexual relationship. Watkins sends four indecent images to Mjadzelics.

May 2011: Mjadzelics sends an email to the Association of Chief Police Officers saying Watkins is raping a child on a ‘regular basis’. In her correspondence, she says: ‘I’ve gained his trust again by agreeing to a lot of disgusting things to get whatever is needed to bring him to justice.’

February 2012: Mjadzelics says she contacts the father of a child she fears Watkins was abusing.

March 2012: Mjadzelics says she contacts South Wales Police regarding a chat she had with Watkins on Skype. Mjadzelics attends Doncaster police station with her laptop.

April 2012: Watkins and a female fan, who cannot be named for legal reasons, sexually abuse her son at a London hotel.

May 2012: Over three months, South Yorkshire Police is contacted three times over allegations that Watkins is abusing a child.

August 2012: Watkins’s home is raided by police. One of the singer’s laptops is seized by detectives.

October 2012: Bedfordshire Police is contacted about allegations, supposedly made by Mjadzelics, that Watkins is planning to abuse another fan’s baby. Watkins is later interviewed and bailed by police.

November 2012: Mjadzelics is interviewed as a witness by officers from Operation Globe.

December 2012: Watkins is again arrested and charged by police. He appears before Cardiff Magistrates’ Court along with two female accomplices.

January 2013: Mjadzelics arrested and questioned.

November/December 2013: Watkins pleads guilty to a string of sex offences – including engaging in sexual activity with a child, the attempted rape of a fan’s baby and possessing, making and distributing indecent images. He is given a 29-year jail term, with a further six years on licence. His two female accomplices also plead guilty and receive prison terms.

May 2014: The Independent Police Complaints Commission confirms it is investigating claims of gross misconduct regarding three South Yorkshire Police officers, two detectives from the Bedfordshire force and one from South Wales into their handling of reports made to them about Watkins.

January 2015: Mjadzelics goes on trial at Cardiff Crown Court, but is cleared.



Hundreds Arrested in International Child Porn Case

348 people arrested and 386 children rescued

Toronto police announcing an international child pornography bust said Thursday that 348 people have been arrested and 386 children rescued from situations around the world where they were at risk.

Toronto police announcing an international child pornography bust said Thursday that 348 people have been arrested and 386 children rescued from situations around the world where they were at risk.

Police say a sweeping child pornography investigation that began with a Toronto man has led to at least 386 victims being rescued.

Toronto police say 348 people have been arrested around the world as part of Project Spade, which they described as one of the largest child porn busts they’ve ever achieved.

Hundreds of thousand of the images, filling 45 terabytes or a stack of paper reaching as tall as 1,500 CN Towers,  found featured “horrific acts of sexual abuse — some of the worst (officers) have seen,” said Inspector Joanna Beaven-Desjardins, who heads the Toronto police’s sex crimes unit.

They say 50 of those arrested are from Ontario and 58 are from other parts of Canada.

Police say school teachers, doctors and actors were among those arrested.

The Toronto man at the heart of the investigation was allegedly running a company since 2005 that distributed child pornography videos.

Police allege the man instructed people around the world to create the videos of children ranging from five to 12 years of age, and then distributed the videos to international customers.

“We’ve worked a lot of big cases. This is by far the biggest,” said one source.

‪The company, Toronto-based Azov Films, sold mail-order DVDs and streamed online videos of naked boys from Germany, Romania and Ukraine, which it marketed as naturist movies and claimed were legal in Canada and the United States.

‪According to police in Spain, where 38 suspects were arrested last year, the Canadian firm earned $1.6-million annually from sales in 94 countries.

‪The head of the company, 41-year-old Toronto resident Brian Way, has been in custody since his May, 2011, arrest after an online undercover operation.

‪Records at the Finch Avenue courthouse in Toronto show that, in addition to indicting him with 23 child-pornography-related criminal counts, prosecutors took the unprecedented step of designating Azov Films as a criminal organization and charging Mr. Way with giving directions on behalf of a gang.

Originally enacted to fight criminal bikers, gangsterism offences bring stiffer penalties because they have to be served consecutively to other jail terms.

Inspector Joanna Beavan-Desjardins at news conference (14 Nov 2013)

Inspector Joanna Beavan-Desjardins said 108 arrests were made across Canada

‪Mr. Way’s mother, Sandra Waslov, who is believed to be in the U.S., was named as a co-conspirator, along with a German videographer, Markus Rudolph Roth.

‪About 100 people have been arrested in Canada, including 45 in Ontario and 45 in Quebec, police sources said.

‪According to U.S. court documents, the Azov investigation was prompted by about 20 complaints to Toronto police.

‪Some of the complaints came from other law-enforcement agencies, some from cyber-tipsters and even some from business rivals of Mr. Way, sources said.

‪Azov was not exactly a covert operation: It was incorporated, held trademarks and fought for them in very public legal battles that stretched over years.

‪Starting in 2004, David Eisenlohr, a California mail-order distributor selling what he calls European naturist videos, complained to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that Mr. Way was stealing his films and reselling them online at a cheaper price.

‪Mr. Eisenlohr then came to the attention of U.S. investigators in March, 2006, when photo-lab employees at a Wal-Mart in Virginia saw a man, David Tetterton, trying to print explicit photos from their self-serve kiosk. Evidence seized from Mr. Tetterton’s house led to Mr. Eisenlohr, who was indicted with trading child pornography.

‪Even as he faced criminal charges, Mr. Eisenlohr continued his campaign against his Canadian competitor. In 2007, he wrote a letter to then Canadian justice minister Rob Nicholson to complain about Mr. Way “stealing my intellectual property using the internet” and ask whether there were laws in Canada to stop him.

‪“It’s crazy, guys arguing over what we consider child-exploitation material,” one police detective said about the feud.

‪In court, Mr. Eisenlohr successfully argued that his nude videos were not pornographic and he was acquitted in 2009.

‪The following year in Romania, a German man arrived in the Transylvanian city of Zalau and began offering martial-arts classes to local boys.

‪The man was Mr. Roth and he was arrested in August, 2010, and sentenced to three years of prison for taking more than 100 pornographic films of children. Authorities said the films were sold to Canada at $1,000 a piece.

Two months after Mr. Roth’s arrest, Toronto police and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service began their Azov investigation, accessing the company website and making undercover purchases.

Toronto police infographic on Project Spade

Toronto police say over 50 countries were involved in the inquiry

‪They found that orders to the U.S. transited through a warehouse near Buffalo before being shipped by USPS Priority mail.

‪Toronto police executed a search warrant at Azov’s Etobicoke offices on May 1, 2011, and seized hundreds of DVDs, computers, business records, shipping labels and customer order histories, according to U.S. court documents.

‪Police sources estimate about 100 children were rescued as a result of the investigation.

‪Sources say the investigation identified 10 to 15 children in Ukraine and Eastern Europe, who modelled for photographers connected with Azov.

‪In addition, the sources said, as Azov clients were identified around the world, police uncovered more children who were victims of those customers, who were either “hands-on abusers” or who secretly videotaped them.

‪In one case, the Azov probe led to the arrest of Richard Keller, a pediatric endocrinologist in Andover, Mass.

‪A search at Dr. Keller’s house uncovered videos that appeared to have been shot at the Cap d’Agde nudist colony in southern France. The camera operator’s forearm and wristwatch are seen at one point. Investigators then executed a second search warrant to see whether they could find a matching wristwatch.

‪Several of the American defendants contend the videos they bought aren’t pornographic at all, but just legal videos of naked boys, using the same argument that led to Mr. Eisenlohr’s acquittal. U.S. courts so far have sided with the prosecution and a number of defendants have already been found guilty.

‪In Canada, the Criminal Code’s definition of child pornography includes images where a minor’s genitals are depicted for a sexual purpose.

‪Canadian police say they’ve obtained legal opinions from prosecutors that the material sold by Azov qualified as child pornography.

“What did they think they were buying?” one officer said about customers who argued they bought legal naturist films.

Website Exposes Alleged Child Sex Predators

This man has been asking to have sex with a 14 year old girl online
Name: Charles Stewart Age: 26 Location: Palmerston North

New Zealand–Graphic sex chat by 39 Kiwi men, many with an intention of meeting a 13- or 14- year old Kiwi girl for sex, is the latest incident fueling widespread concerns about the sexual exploitation of underage girls in this country. Details of the website aired on 3News tonight.

All 39 men who feature on the website www.sexpredators.co.nz are identifiable through photographs, their Christian name and surname, town or suburb, and age. For some, their place of work, a cell-phone number, email address, driver’s licence or car plate number is also provided. Explicit sex chats appear on each.

Stop Demand Foundation, which tackles issues of sexual violence, exploitation and denigration of women and girls, describes much of the chat as “utterly vile”.

“What is particularly concerning”, says founder Denise Ritchie, “is that within many of those chats was a clearly stated intention for a meeting to take place. One man, ‘Warren’, a 49- year-old from Hamilton asks a girl he believes to be a 14-year-old virgin, how many condoms he should bring to his first meeting. In addition to incest fantasies, he talks of ‘holding your little girl body down’ while he engages in various sex acts.”

“’Charlie’, 26, from Palmerston North, asks a girl he believes to be 14 and a virgin, if she would be willing to be tied up and gagged while he perpetuated various sex acts. He asked if she would participate in ‘consensual rape’, be his sex slave which involved ‘pretty much just me f***ing you whenever and however I want’ but adds ‘well u know that if I do start doing the rape thing I probs wont stop (sic)’.”

This latest revelation follows on the heels of the “Roast Busters” storm, both of which, says Ritchie, “exposes the depressing, callous, cesspool mentality of these men, that underage girls are mere sexual toys for their illegal pleasure”.

While the attitude of the males concerned is one issue, Stop Demand says the response by the Police is another. “This website links to a Facebook page set up seven months ago, which ‘likes’ Auckland Police, Waitemata Police and Counties-Manukau Police,” notes Ritchie. “The Police have been spoon-fed details, including contact details, about these 39 men. The obvious question is: what steps have the Police taken to investigate these men?”


Kids Pimping Kids in Indonesia

‘The money was too strong to resist’: Indonesian kids pimp out other kids for sex

Teenage pimp, or “mami,” identified as Chimoy, right, applies make-up as one of her “children” adjusts her hair in a room at a boarding house in Bandung, Indonesia.

By Margie Mason

BANDUNG, Indonesia — Chimoy flicks a lighter and draws a long drag until her cheeks collapse on the skinny Dunhill Mild, exhaling a column of smoke.

Her no-nonsense, tough-girl attitude projects the confidence of a woman in her 30s, yet she’s only 17. Colorful angel and butterfly tattoos cover her skin, and she wears a black T-shirt emblazoned with a huge skull.

Chimoy — by her own account and those of other girls and social workers — is a pimp.

She got into the business when she was 14. A boyfriend’s sister asked her to sell herself for sex, but she recruited a friend for the job instead. Then she established a pimping operation that grew to include a car, a house and some 30 working girls earning her up to $3,000 a month — a small fortune in a poor country.

“The money was too strong to resist,” she says. “I was really proud to make money on my own.”

Two years ago in Indonesia, there were zero reports of child pimps like Chimoy who work as the boss with no adults behind the scenes. But the National Commission for Child Protection says 21 girls between 14 and 16 have been caught working as “mamis” so far this year, and there are likely far more.

It’s easier than ever. Kids can use text messages and social media to book clients and make transactions without ever needing to stand on a dark corner in a miniskirt and heels.

“The sickening thing is you see 11-year-olds, 12-year-olds, getting into these practices,” says Leonarda Kling, Jakarta-based regional representative for Terre des Hommes Netherlands, a nonprofit working on trafficking issues. “You think: ‘The whole future of this child is just going to waste.'”

Chimoy, who has occasionally worked as a prostitute, and other teens in the sex industry interviewed for this story are identified by their nicknames. The Associated Press does not typically identify children who have been sexually abused.

Recently, in the eastern city of Surabaya, a 15-year-old was busted after escorting three other teens to meet clients at a hotel. Police spokeswoman Maj. Suparti says the girl employed 10 prostitutes — including classmates, Facebook friends and even her older sister — and collected up to a quarter of the $50 to $150 received for each call.

She conducted business over the popular BlackBerry Messenger service, earning up to $400 a month, says Suparti, who uses one name like many Indonesians. The girl also met potential clients in malls or restaurants first to size them up.

“She was running her pimp action like a professional,” Suparti says.

‘I had to have the BlackBerry’
The U.N. International Labor Organization estimates 40,000 to 70,000 children become victims of sexual exploitation in Indonesia annually.

Much of this abuse is driven by adults, but poverty and consumerism play a role. Indonesia’s have-nots rub up against a growing middle class obsessed with the latest gadgets and the ultra-wealthy flaunting their designer clothes and luxury cars.

Dita Alangkara / AP
A teenage sex worker checks messages on her cellphone at a boarding house in Bandung, Indonesia.

It was a smartphone that drove soft-spoken Daus into prostitution at age 14. The son of a factory worker and a street food vendor, the lanky boy says he was soon making $400 to $500 a month for having sex regularly with three women in their 30s and 40s.

“I didn’t want to do it, but I had to have the BlackBerry,” he says. Indonesia is a social-media crazed country that ranks as one of the world’s top Facebook and Twitter users. “If we don’t have a BlackBerry, we feel we are nothing, and we are ignored by our friends.”

But the biggest issue is not money. It’s problems at home, including neglect and abuse, says Faisal Cakrabuana, project manager of Yayasan Bahtera, a nonprofit in the West Java capital of Bandung that helps sexually victimized children.

Many girls end up on the street and connect with others facing similar situations. Sometimes they band together and rent a small room or apartment, with one girl emerging as the pimp.

Often she’s the one with prior experience. The other girls may pay her in cash, booze and drugs, or simply contribute to the group’s rent and utilities, Cakrabuana says. In other cases, no money is collected at all from pimps, some of whom continue to receive support from well-off parents.

“They are just seeking what their family doesn’t give them: attention,” he says. “They make big families of their own.”

Foreign customers
Chimoy was an only child living alone with her mom. She says her father was always gone, taking care of his four other wives. Polygamy is not uncommon in Muslim-majority Indonesia.

She recalls with a proud smile how she was always among the top students in her class, with a knack for business and cooking. At one point, she even opened a small shop selling traditional spicy crackers.

In sixth grade, Chimoy was already running with a tough, older crowd. She was drinking and regularly using drugs by ninth grade, when she dropped out of school to manage the prostitution business full time. She got pregnant and had her first daughter at 15. The second baby came a year later.

Chimoy worked at karaoke bars, sometimes also selling herself, and racked up a list of clients. Money began to flow, and so did the drugs: She became hooked on crystal methamphetamine, known here as shabu shabu.

First she had three girls working for her, and later many more. Most were 14 to 17 years old, but some were in their 20s. All waited for her call to meet a growing list of local and foreign customers in the popular tourist town of Bandung.

“We rented a house to live together,” she says. “It makes life easier to yell out: ‘Who wants this job?'”

Customers called or sent texts asking for a specific type of girl: tall or maybe light-skinned. Facebook was sometimes used to display photos of the girls, but Chimoy says no services were offered directly online.

Once, she says, a client paid around $2,000 plus a BlackBerry and a motorcycle in exchange for a girl’s virginity. Chimoy pocketed $500 from that deal.

Nuri, a chopstick-thin 16-year-old with long auburn-dyed hair, says Chimoy is family and never demands a cut of her earnings. The girls decide how much to pay her. A high school motorcycle gang serves as their muscle.

“She’s different from my previous adult pimps because money doesn’t matter to her, but my safety means everything to her,” adds 16-year-old Chacha, who started selling sex three years ago at a karaoke bar in western Indonesia.

“I feel very comfortable working with her,” she says. “She is even a mother to us.”

Prostitution operations around the world are typically led by adults, but enterprising teens in many countries have figured out how to get money for sex on their own, says Anjan Bose of ECPAT International, a nonprofit global network that helps sexually abused children.

Well before smartphones and social media, school girls in Japan, often from middle-class families, left their numbers at phone booths near train stations for men to call. Today, Bose says children as young as 13 in the Dominican Republic earn more than their teachers selling sex for everything from free car rides to mobile phones. In Thailand and the Philippines, teens go online and strip or perform sex acts in front of webcams, often for customers in Western countries. And a Canadian high school girl has been on trial this month for allegedly using Facebook to lure teens as young as 13 to have sex with men for money.

Both teen prostitutes and teen pimps need help to leave the business, says Bose, who’s based in Bangkok.

“A child cannot consent to prostitution,” he says. “It’s an exploitative situation where they are serving the needs of the customers. We have to look at them as being victims.”

A struggle to quit
Today, Chimoy sits on the floor of a rented ground-floor room just big enough for a twin-size mattress. This is home since she lost nearly everything to her ravenous meth addiction.

Now, she says, she’s given up drugs, and also wants to quit pimping. She’s been working with Yayasan Bahtera for two years and says people there have given her the support she needs to start scaling back her operation.

The foundation offers skills and counseling. Cakrabuana, the program manager, says children who seek help are not judged or turned away, even if they are still involved in the business.

“I’m trying to get rid of my past,” says Chimoy, who is raising her children with help from her mother. “I also explain to the girls, ‘Don’t do this anymore. You can find another job. This job is risky.'”

But she still conducts business regularly with about five girls who are also in the program. They’re trying to quit too, but when money runs low, they call Chimoy to arrange clients.

They are not hard to find. As Chimoy sits talking about her dream of becoming a pastry chef, a gangsta rap ringtone keeps interrupting, along with several text messages.

All are calls from men looking to book girls.



Britain’s Underage Muslim Marriage Epidemic

The imam of Birmingham’s Central Jamia Masjid Ghamkol Sharif Mosque (pictured above) agreed to perform the marriage of a 14-year-old girl against her will.

by Soeren Kern

More than a dozen Muslim clerics at some of the biggest mosques in Britain have been caught on camera agreeing to marry off girls as young as 14.

Undercover reporters filming a documentary about the prevalence of forced and underage marriage in Britain for the television program ITV Exposure secretly recorded 18 Muslim imams agreeing to perform an Islamic marriage, known as a nikah, between a 14-year-old girl and an older man.

Campaigners against forced marriage — which is not yet a crime in Britain — say thousands of underage girls — including some under the age of five — are being forced to marry against their will in Muslim nikahs every year, and that the examples exposed by the documentary represent just “the tip of the iceberg.”

The documentary, entitled “Forced to Marry,” was first broadcast on October 9 and involves two reporters posing as the mother and brother of a 14-year-old girl to be married to an older man. The reporters contacted 56 mosques across Britain and asked clerics to perform a nikah. The imams were specifically told that the “bride” did not consent to the marriage to an older man from London.

Although the legal age for marriage in Britain is 16, according to Islamic Sharia law girls can marry once they reach puberty. The imams who agreed to marry the girl openly mocked the legitimacy of British law, reflecting the rise of a parallel Islamic legal system in Britain.

One of the Muslim clerics who agreed to perform the underage marriage is Mohammed Shahid Akhtar, the imam of the Central Jamia Masjid Ghamkol Sharif Mosque in Birmingham, the second-largest mosque in Britain with a capacity of more than 5,000 worshippers.

On being informed that the girl did not want to get married, Akhtar replied: “She’s 14. By Sharia, grace of God, she’s legal to get married. Obviously Islam has made it easy for us. There is nothing against that. We’re doing it because it’s okay through Islam.”

The documentary also shows Akhtar expressing his contempt for British marriage laws: “You’ve got the kaffirs[non-believers], the law, the English people that … you know, you can’t get married twice but, by the grace of God, we can get married four times.”

An undercover UK investigation revealed that Imams at some of Britain's biggest mosques were willing to marry off girls as young as 14. (Shutterstock)

An undercover UK investigation revealed that Imams at some of Britain’s biggest mosques were willing to marry off girls as young as 14. (Shutterstock)

Another cleric who agreed to marry the 14 year old girl is Mufti Shams al-Huda al-Misbahi, who preaches at the Jamia Masjid Kanzul Iman Mosque in Heckmondwike, a town near Leeds in north-central England.

When the undercover reporter, posing as the brother of the girl to be married, says, “She’s not willing now, but she will be,” Misbahi responds: “If you make her willing, she will be willing.” He is then filmed saying that he would perform the marriage without providing an official marriage certificate valid under British law. “We’ll make everything okay by Islam. We’ll write down and put it in our records.” Misbahi goes on to tell the undercover reporters that the girl will be able to live with her new husband after the ceremony.

Misbahi is a senior Muslim cleric who has worked with the West Yorkshire Police as an advisor on community cohesion, a British concept that refers to the integration of Muslim immigrants within a multicultural society. Before being caught on camera advocating forced marriage, Misbahi had publicly condemned the practice for many years.

Another imam at the Al Quba Mosque and Shahporan Islamic Center in Manchester was filmed saying: “I can get you someone to do the nikah for you, that’s not going to be a problem.”

The documentary includes an interview with Nazir Afzal, Chief Crown Prosecutor for Northwest England. “Forced marriage is probably the last form of slavery in the UK,” he says.

In an interview with the Yorkshire Post, Aneeta Prem, founder of the Freedom Charity which educates children about forced marriage, said: “I think whoever is involved in this, you are talking about child abuse and exploitation and it is something we need to stop. People are too culturally sensitive when dealing with this, they are worried about offending particular groups. We have to say it’s immoral and illegal and stamp it out. I think what we are hearing about is the tip of the iceberg, it is a huge problem.”

At least 250 children are known to have been subjected to forced marriage in Britain in 2012, including a two-year-old girl who is believed to be the country’s youngest victim of the practice.

The statistics were provided by the British government’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) as part of an ongoing effort to create a law that would criminalize forced marriage in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The custom is already illegal in Scotland.

Overall, the FMU said it gave advice or support related to nearly 1,500 cases of forced marriage during 2012, although experts say the vast majority of forced marriages in Britain go unreported. A study produced by NatCen Social Research, a British think tank, estimates that the real number of forced marriages in Britain probably exceeds 8,000 per year.

Most of the instances of forced marriage in Britain involve Muslim families from South Asia, particularly Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. Many of the cases involve Muslim children who are taken abroad by their parents and forced to marry against their will. During the 2013 summer holidays, for example, an average of five girls were believed to have been taken out of Britain every day to be forcibly married abroad. Forced marriages also often involve horrors such as kidnapping, beatings and rape.

Prime Minister David Cameron has compared the practice of forced marriage to modern day slavery and has said people should not “shy away” from addressing the issue because of political correctness. “For too long in this country we have thought, ‘Well, it’s a cultural practice and we just have to run with it,'” Cameron said. “We don’t. It’s a crime.”

In May 2013, Cameron submitted a bill to Parliament that would make forcing someone to marry a specific criminal offense. The measure is part of the Anti-Social Behavior, Crime and Policing Bill slowly working its way through the House of Commons, the lower house of the British Parliament.

To be sure, not everyone in Britain is in favor of making forced marriage a crime. According to a research document published by the House of Commons Library on September 16, 2013, some campaigners on the issue are worried that victims could be deterred from coming forward because they will not want to risk relatives going to prison. Others argue it may lead to youngsters being taken overseas at an earlier age to be put through forced marriages. Still others question how allegations of forced marriage would be proven to the criminal standard of proof: beyond reasonable doubt.

Another reason why Britain is taking so long to outlaw forced marriage involves multicultural sensitivities. Many promoters of British multiculturalism say the move to criminalize forced marriage will unfairly single out Muslims.

journal article entitled “A Civil Rather than Criminal Offence? Forced Marriage, Harm and the Politics of Multiculturalism in the UK” argues that the reluctance in Britain to criminalize forced marriage is due, in part, to the influence that multicultural ideals have had on current British approaches to the practice.

The article also attributes the British preference for civil remedies rather than criminal legislation to the tendency of the state to conceptualize the harms of forced marriage principally in terms of a violation of choice, rather than as a matter of long-term violence against women.

The question arises as to whether, by adopting such an approach, the state may be giving rise to a two-tier system of rights, in which minority group women are afforded a lesser protection of their human rights, as a result of their racial or cultural background.

Back in 1999, former Labour Party Home Office Minister Mike O’Brien criticized the lack of action on the problem forced marriages. “Multicultural sensitivity is no excuse for moral blindness,” he said.

Fast-forward to 2013. In an interview with the Sunday Times on October 6, Jasvinder Sanghera, an activist who has been instrumental in the decades-long campaign to criminalize forced marriage in Britain, sums it up this way: The issue has become “wrapped up in this moral blindness of cultural sensitivity.”