This was indicated by the first results of tests with bait advertisements of the programme Watch Netderland that fights sexual exploitation of minors in The Netherlands. The field research is intended to better understand the number of men, the kind of men and the arenas.
Not all paedophiles
As well as the unimaginably high number of men attracted to the bait advertisements, an increasingly clearer picture of the kind of men that responds is provided. Gideon van Aartsen manages the Observation and Action Unit (O&A Unit) which follows up on reports and does pro-active research by, among other things, the use of bait advertisements. “Do not believe these are all paedophiles. Paedophiles are looking for children. The group of men that is interested in sex with young women is much larger. Various research data show that one in ten men from Western Europe would have sex with an underage girl should the opportunity arise.”
The group of prostitution clients that reacts to bait advertisements proves to be very diverse. Sometimes they are family men, sending pictures of themselves with their children. One of the men even bragged to a girl in a bait profile that he is university-educated and that he can help her with school assignments during a date.
Arenas where minors are traded for paid sex
Watch Nederland places bait advertisements mainly on sex advertisement sites, as that is where most minors are advertised. The O&A Unit also received a tip-off about adults contacting minors on Twitter with the aim of fixing sex dates for payment. Van Aartsen: “So we put that to the test. We generated a profile for a girl. We used a picture of a bare belly to go with it and in the biography we stated that it concerned a minor.” That also instantly generated a lot of sex requests from adults.
Gathering information for warning
At a later stage, the O&A Unit will use the information for warning clients. The process of warnings is best illustrated with a conversation example:
- Client: Can you meet me this afternoon at 4 o'clock?
- Bait advertisement: I am only sixteen, but I badly need the money.
- Option A: Client: If you are a minor, I will not fix a date. (The client will receive information about minors that are offered for paid sex.)
- Option B: Client: That does not matter. I still want to fix a date. (The client will receive recurring personal warnings for some time.) The exact form and content are still to be determined.)
At the moment, fixing a date with the aim of having sex with a minor for payment is not punishable by law if the minor that is offered is in fact a virtual one. That will change as soon as the Dutch Law on Computer Crime III (Wet Computercriminaliteit III) is passed by the Dutch Upper Chamber. This law includes the client being punishable by law also in such a case. The O&A Unit will then send the information straight to the police. Instead of a warning, the client will receive an announcement such as ‘Watch Netherlands knows who you are. Your data has been sent to the police.’
Watch Nederland is carried out by Terre des Hommes Netherlands, the Centre against Child Trafficking and Human Trafficking and care centre Fier. The programme fights against commercial sexual exploitation of minors in The Netherlands.