Sex slavery: The growing trade
LONDON, England (CNN) -- The plight of women and children being sold into sex slavery around the world is being highlighted as part of International Women's Day.
An estimated two million women and children are sold into the sex trade every year, the U.S. research group Protection Project states.
Launching a report by the group, U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski described the sex trade as "a repugnant and despicable practice that has no place in the 21st century."
She said: "No human being anywhere in the world should be regarded as a commodity."
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton sponsored a law last year toughening the penalty for human trafficking.
Trafficking in young girls
The ground-breaking law offers protection and an opportunity for permanent residency for victims who testify against those who enslave them.
Calls for similar laws to be introduced in Europe are also being made to coincide with International Women's Day.
Up to 120,000 women are smuggled into western Europe, mainly from central and eastern Europe, and forced into prostitution.
A report by the Protection Project, based at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, Maryland, has documented the rising trends in the sex slave trade.
It says more than 15,000 women are trafficked into the United States every year, many of them young girls from Mexico.
The project also claims that Asian women are sold to brothels in North America for $16,000 each.
Almost 200,000 girls from Nepal, many of them under the age of 14, are working as sex slaves in India.
An estimated 10,000 women from the former Soviet Union have been forced into prostitution in Israel.
The Thai government reports that 60,000 Thai children have been sold into prostitution.
As many as 10,000 children aged between six and 14 are virtually enslaved in brothels in Sri Lanka.
Some 20,000 women and children from Burma have been forced into prostitution in Thailand.
The project also says that of 155 cases of forced prostitution brought before the courts in The Netherlands, only four resulted in convictions of the traffickers.
The Protection Project is compiling a database on laws on trafficking, forced prostitution, slavery and debt bondage in 190 independent states and 63 dependencies.
Kidnap fears in Britain
In Britain, details are surfacing of dozens of teenage girls in the care of social services who may have been kidnapped by organised gangs and forced to work as prostitutes abroad, mainly in Italy.
The girls in question are child asylum seekers from Africa, who enter the care of West Sussex social services after arriving at Gatwick Airport in the south of England.
A West Sussex council spokesman said: "It is true to say that a certain number of asylum seekers, minors, have gone missing from social services care. We believe they may have been taken by gangs abroad.
"We have always done as much as we can to prevent this happening, but we cannot force people to stay inside all the time.
"We are reducing the numbers who are going missing by working very closely with all the agencies, including the police. We are doing everything in our power to stop this."
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