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Skip to content. Some are elaborately done up in makeup and colorful cocktail dresses. Others stand plainly in jeans and T-shirts. Most are somewhere between 13 and 17 years old, though they can be as young as 8 or 9. There is no shortage of demand for their services.
Despite an abundance of prostitutes of all ages in the resort town, minors are a popular choice among clients. Madagascar has long grappled with the scourge of child prostitution. The director of the Collective for the Rights of the Child and Family CDEF in Mahajanga, Sylvie Hanitra Rakotoarivao, said in December that cases of child prostitution had been documented in Mahajanga, a city of about ,, over the previous month alone. Foreign sex tourists account for much of the demand.
In , the last year for which official figures are available, , tourists visited Madagascar , a 15 percent increase over the previous year. Fifty-eight percent of those were from France, the former colonial power. In addition to Mahajanga, common sites for child prostitution include the resort island of Nosy Be; big cities like Diego-Suarez, Toamasina and the capital, Antananarivo; and mining towns like Ilakaka in the south. She started to sell beignets for pennies on the street.
Yasmina said that one evening, a friend invited her to come out to the beach. Over a year later, she recalled the experience with disgust. The money, though never as much as that first encounter, was too good to pass up in the months ahead. Her clients were a mix of Europeans and Malagasy. She would usually entertain five in a weekend, she said. Business was easy. Yasmina and several acquaintances would position themselves along the waterfront or on the beach.
Since the coup, which led to sweeping cuts in foreign aid and government services, an already precarious economic situation has deteriorated precipitously. Many children have been forced to leave school. Many point to a growing normalization of these kinds of activities within Malagasy society. In a number of documented cases, parents have actively solicited clients for their children.