Youth sexual exploitation is the sexual abuse of children and youth under the age of 18 through the exchange of sexual acts for drugs, food, shelter, protection, other basics of life, money, acceptance or love. Sexual exploitation includes involving children and youth in the creation of pornography and sexually explicit websites, online exploitation, sexual assault and sexual interference.
Sexual exploitation takes many forms. Sometimes it involves recruiting children and youth into giving sexual services for money.
While youth under the age of 18 engaging in sex work is considered sexual exploitation, many young people do not regard themselves as exploited, believing that it can be a mutually beneficial arrangement when both parties have their needs met. Conditions that serve to further exploit youth include, but are not limited to, poverty, circumstance and the presence of individuals in society who prey on their vulnerabilities, regarding them as being easy targets.
Movement of sexually exploited children and youth in established circuits, from rural to urban locations, across provinces and even across national borders makes the extent of the problem difficult to track.