It is safe to assume that no child or adolescent freely chooses a life of sex work.
And yet, the numbers are shocking.
A study conducted by a Dhaka University professor reveals that some 64% of sex workers in Bangladesh were minors, while a staggering 90% of them had entered the sex trade while they were still minors.
How are so many young people ending up in prostitution?
Clearly, they are being forced into the trade, and our law enforcement system is, shamefully, failing to protect these vulnerable girls and women.
This is fundamentally an issue of coercion and exploitation, and applies to not just children, but to all sex workers.
Any person who forces someone into the sex trade is violating human rights, and committing a grave crime. The crime is all the more unforgivable in the case of minors.
The hammer of justice must come down hard on those people who profit off of forcing others into prostitution.
It is important that our law enforcement recognise the rights of these girls and women -- the focus on the crackdown must be coercion, not prostitution itself.
As a society, we must not further victimise those who have already been wronged and been put through traumatic experiences.
Policies and institutions must be put in place, like shelters where sex workers can escape to and remain safe. Too often they remain stuck in the business for fear of bodily harm or worse.
Furthermore, there must be hotlines, awareness campaigns, and outreach programs that let sex workers know that they are not alone, and that help is available for those who need it.
Ultimately, there must be zero tolerance for those who perpetuate this trade of exploitation and coercion.
This means coming down on pimps and traffickers with a firm hand, and the imposition of draconian penalties.