What is child trafficking?

The Costa Rica Law Against Trafficking in Persons (Law 9095) defines child trafficking as promoting, facilitating, encouraging or engaging in the recruitment, transfer, transport, harboring, hiding, retaining, delivery, or receipt of one or more persons under age 18 within or outside the country for exploitation including:

Any form of sexual exploitation, whether commercial or non-commercial

Forced labor or services and other forms of labor exploitation (including forced criminality)

Servitude, slavery, or practices similar to slavery

Servile or forced marriage

Irregular adoption

Forced begging

Forced pregnancy and/or forced abortion

Illicit extraction or illicit transplantation of human organs, tissues, cells, or fluids

When a victim is under age 18, there is no legal requirement to show or prove that the trafficker used tactics (“means”) to exploit them.

In practice, there may be force or coercion or manipulation of the child or adolescent trafficking victim – there very often is – but it is not necessary for these tactics to be present for a child or adolescent to be a trafficking victim.

An individual may be a victim of child trafficking even if they and/or the case are not identified until after they are older than 18. Being under age 18 at the time that the person was recruited , transferred, transported, harbored, hidden, retained, delivered or received for the purpose of exploitation is, by itself, sufficient for a situation to be child trafficking. Even if an individual is now an adult (over age 18), if they were under age 18 when the exploitation occurred, the case can be charged as child trafficking.

Child trafficking can happen anywhere. Movement or crossing borders is not a required element of the crime of child trafficking. Some child trafficking cases may be transnational but many are not. Many trafficking victims are Costa Rican children and adolescents who are exploited within Costa Rica.

Child trafficking can happen in the victim’s own neighborhood or home. It occurs in cities and in rural areas. It occurs in every province of Costa Rica.

It is against the law in Costa Rica to hurt or abuse children or adolescents in any way.

Even if someone is not a victim of trafficking, they may be a victim of another form of abuse or exploitation.

All children and adolescents in Costa Rica have the right to be protected and receive help.

There are different services available to all children and adolescents, regardless of whether or not they have been trafficked. See the Map of Available Services for Child and Adolescent Trafficking Victims in Guanacaste, Puntarenas, and San José

A child is anyone under the age of 18.

Victims of child trafficking in Costa Rica can be Costa Rican or foreign.

Victims of child trafficking can be female, male, transgender or nonbinary.

Anyone under age 18 who is forced to be in prostitution is a trafficking victim regardless of consent. Anyone under age 18 cannot consent or agree to engage in prostitution or commercial sex.

The intention to exploit a child for one of the purposes of trafficking is a crime (there is no need for actual exploitation to take place).

Developed by Warnath Group


The development of the IACT Learning Hub was funded through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of State. The opinions, findings, and conclusions stated herein are those of the developers and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of State.