“I feel very comfortable working with her,” she said. “She is even a mother to us.”
Prostitution operations around the world are typically led by adults, but enterprising teens in many countries have figured out how to get money for sex on their own, said Anjan Bose of ECPAT International, a nonprofit global network that helps sexually abused children.
Well before smartphones and social media, schoolgirls in Japan — often from middle-class families — left their numbers at phone booths near train stations for men to call.
Today, Bose says children as young as 13 in the Dominican Republic earn more than their teachers selling sex for everything from free car rides to mobile phones. In Thailand and the Philippines, teens go online and strip or perform sex acts in front of Webcams, often for customers in Western countries. A Canadian high-school girl has been on trial this month for allegedly using Facebook to lure teens as young as 13 to have sex with men for money.
Both teen prostitutes and teen pimps need help to leave the business, said Bose, who is based in Bangkok.
“A child cannot consent to prostitution,” he said. “It’s an exploitative situation where they are serving the needs of the customers. We have to look at them as being victims.”
Today, Chimoy sits on the floor of a rented ground-floor room just big enough for a twin-size mattress. This is home since she lost nearly everything to her ravenous meth addiction.
She has given up drugs and said she wants to quit pimping. She has been working with Yayasan Bahtera for two years and said people there have given her the support she needs to start scaling back her operation.
The foundation offers skills training and counseling. Cakrabuana said children who seek help are not judged or turned away, even if they are still involved in the business.
“I’m trying to get rid of my past,” said Chimoy, who is raising her children with help from her mother. “I also explain to the girls: ‘Don’t do this anymore. You can find another job. This job is risky.’”
However, she still conducts business regularly with about five girls who are also in the program. They are trying to quit too, but when money runs low, they call Chimoy to arrange clients.
They are not hard to find. As Chimoy sits talking about her dream of becoming a pastry chef, a gangsta rap ringtone keeps interrupting her, along with several text messages. All are calls from men looking to book girls.
Additional reporting by Niniek Karmini