Commercial Sexual Exploitation

Commercial Sexual Exploitation


What is Commercial Sexual Exploitation?

Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE), a phrase similar to sex trafficking, is a term used globally to describe trafficking crimes where the primary form of forced labor is in sexual services. CSE is not typically defined in law and can be viewed as slightly broader in definition to include some activities that may not be covered in sex trafficking legislation. Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) specifically applies the conditions of CSE to people under the age of 18.

What’s the difference between CSE and Sex Trafficking? Our guide to modern slavery terminology:


of all victims of CSE are women and girls

There are an estimated 5 million victims of CSE worldwide. Approximately 1 million of them are thought to be children.

Evidence of CSE is extremely difficult to obtain

Estimates on prevalence reflect the best data available. Victims are often unable or unwilling to report their case, either due to lack of awareness of how or to whom, for fear of retribution, or out of fear of retraumatization during the reporting and prosecution process. 

As a part of our commitment to deepening the evidence base for the field, GFEMS is conducting new research to obtain better estimates of CSE in different geographies, and develop interventions that prevent retraumatization of victims. 

Take a deeper look into our work on CSE:

Ending CSE

Like with forced labor more widely, ending CSE requires a systems approach. We must reduce vulnerabilities to exploitation, shift the demand for sexual services, and reform the environments that allow traffickers to operate with impunity.

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How can I tell what is a real case of CSE?

There are many resources available to help you learn the signs of trafficking. Although most victims of trafficking are kept isolated by their traffickers, there are patterns or habits that can be identified. 

Using these guidelines, you can learn to spot the signs of trafficking in different industries or circumstances like hospitality, agriculture, transportation, and healthcare. 

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