Child Prostitute or Victim of Trafficking?

33 Pages Posted: 27 Dec 2007 Last revised: 8 Sep 2009

See all articles by Wendi J. Adelson

Wendi J. Adelson

11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals; Florida State University - College of Law

Date Written: September 6, 2009


Is child prostitution a crime committed by minors, or against them? Federal laws on trafficking consider child prostitution to be akin to the crime of human trafficking, which raises questions about how states categorize child prostitution. At present, many jurisdictions' prostitution statutes fail to distinguish between adult and child prostitutes. Given the recent rise in state legislation geared toward punishing traffickers and protecting child victims of trafficking, it appears counterintuitive to retain state statutes that punish minors who are prostitutes when those same minors might be protected victims under the federal anti-trafficking statutes.

Highlighting the dichotomy between criminal and protected treatment of child prostitutes, this article identifies gaps in both the law and social services, and assesses public policy solutions designed to aid this vulnerable and growing population of child sex workers. The article argues that state legislation criminalizing child prostitution should change in light of trafficking legislation that treats child prostitutes as victims of crime. Moreover, states should divert available anti-trafficking resources toward the rehabilitation and care of child prostitutes regardless of their immigration status.

Suggested Citation

Adelson, Wendi J., Child Prostitute or Victim of Trafficking? (September 6, 2009). University of St. Thomas Law Journal, Vol. 6, No. 1, 2008, Available at SSRN: or

Wendi J. Adelson (Contact Author)

11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals

Federal Justice Building
99 NE 4th Street, Suite 1262
Miami, FL 33132
United States

Florida State University - College of Law ( email )

Miami, FL
United States

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