In many countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the existence of commercial sexual exploitation of children is denied. Taboos in connection with the subject pose a major obstacle for addressing the issue in any systematic way, as do the differing definitions of what constitutes commercial sexual exploitation. For example, in many instances the practice of arranged early child marriage is considered legitimate and not a form of sexual exploitation. Research in some countries of the region indicate that street children are often victims of local street prostitution, although in a few cases organised networks have been found to exploit children for sex, for labour and other forms of abuse. Child sexual exploitation, also takes place through child sex tourism and child pornography but little information is available on the scope of manifestation. With very few exceptions, laws contain no specific provisions to protect children against commercial sexual exploitation.
ECPAT aims to work with governments, NGOs, and other actors to build a strong network to work against CSEC and to undertake research to better understand its nature and manifestations. ECPAT has conducted situational analysis research in Egypt, Chad, Tunisia, Morocco, Mauritania and Yemen, and has provided support to governments, local NGOs and the private sector, for the development of national plans of action to counter CSEC.