Countless hundreds of thousands of children are traded and misused daily in underground sex markets for activities such as child pornography, prostitution and pedophilia. The global trafficking of children for commercial sex exploitation includes sex tourism, procurement of child prostitutes by pimps, unlawful incarceration of children, mutilation of children and various sexual practices pertaining to initiation rites.
Child prostitution is common place in some developing countries where poverty-stricken and often mentally limited parents sell their children to agents as house servants or prostitutes to enable the rest of the family to survive.
Trafficking of children from less developed countries to more developed countries for sex tourism is also relatively easy through bogus adoption schemes or promises of scholarships.
Although we cannot easily remedy the systemic evils of the global economy, we can fight for those in need, aware that people who are in desperate poverty will sell even their children. One way is to fight poverty, one of the causes of child prostitution, and another way is to educate people about the intense suffering caused by child prostitution.
Developing programmes, with a combination of economic support, counselling and education, for families who sell their children can lead to freedom for children in the future.
No adolescent knowingly volunteers for the role of victim in a sexually exploitive situation. The root of the problem of adolescent prostitution is the damage done in early childhood.
There is a strong correlation between abuse, runaway behaviour and prostitution. Almost every runaway child who goes into full-time prostitution has a history of profound family conflicts including abuse by father, stepfather, brother or other male relatives.
Incest and other intrafamilial sexual abuse are among the most serious crimes being committed against children today. Intrafamilial sex is often the antecedent to more commercially exploitive activities because it drives children to the streets where illicit sex is one means of survival. Underage victims of sexual abuse turn to prostitution, an act of self-abasement, to express the anger, silent misery and fear stored up against their aggressors. These children develop a cynical and indifferent attitude towards life and teenage suicide, alcoholism, drug addiction are all classic expressions of a sense of worthlessness and a futile future.
Adolescents in the sex trade do not get their misery for free as they are constantly being menaced by gangs and pimps. Victims of juvenile prostitution are often the target of adults who were sexually abused as children. Former victims create victims in a vicious cycle and this is how the phenomenon of juvenile prostitution is created and helped to flourish.
The goal is not just to treat the symptoms of juvenile prostitution but to tackle the root causes leading to juvenile prostitution. It should go without saying that:
– No child will run away from home if he or she has a normal and happy home life.
– No adolescent will go into prostitution if there are no adults who want to make sexual use of him or her.
– No adult will want to exploit children if he was not abused as a child to the point that his sense of morality and his perception of children have become distorted.
It is our responsibility, as members of society, to help and protect other society members, especially when they are children and unable to defend themselves. If we suspect that a child is a victim of abuse, then the authorities should be notified. The earlier abused children get help, the greater chance they have to heal from their abuse and not perpetuate the cycle.
Rehabilitation of Juvenile Sex Workers
Sexually exploited children constitute a major segment of the young population worldwide and they need a range of services and resources including medical care, alcohol and drug rehabilitation, special education programmes, vocational training, supportive foster care and counselling for effective intervention.
It is often reported that some caregivers and foster parents abuse the children they serve. It is deeply distressing and totally unacceptable when children who have been placed with wider family or non-family caregivers because of abuse in their own home, are then re-abused by that new caregiver. A caregiver’s responsibility is to care for and protect children, not to harm and abuse them.