SURESH RAMPHUL

Child prostitution isn’t restricted to developing countries. It’s a reality in developed countries as well. Children don’t get into it on their own because they’re too immature to grasp the ramifications of the business. Rather, they’re drawn into it by adults (men and women) who are looking for monetary gains. Children born in poverty or who have run away or who are orphans or homeless are often easy victims.

Underground 

In 2016, there were 200,000 Australian sex workers, many of them children. India Today (Nov 25, 2013) says, “In India, nearly 1.2 million sex workers are below the age of 18, with about 40% underage girls being forced into prostitution on a daily basis.” IndiaStudyChannel.com, an Indian educational website, remarks, “Between 2013 and 2016, at least 67,000 children in India went missing, of whom 45% were minors trafficked into prostitution. According to the National Crime Record Bureau, a girl is abducted every 8 minutes in India.” Some 200,000 Nepalese girls under 16 are engaged in prostitution in India.

The Center for the Protection of Children’s Rights estimates that child prostitution under 11 in 1996 in Thailand was about 800,000. Thailand is “a major centre for international child prostitution rings”, according to other sources. Girls, in Thailand, who try to escape are starved and forced to eat excrement. There have been cases of those reporting to the police being returned to the brothels. The police often inform the owners of imminent raids. Referring to Pakistan, an Al Jazeera report (August 20, 2014) says “An estimated 1.5 million children living in streets are vulnerable to sexual abuse and drugs on daily basis.”  The Brazilian Centre for Children and Adolescents estimates that 500,000 children are in prostitution in Brazil. Other sources think it’s more.

The article by Kiran Nazish, “Pakistan’s shame: the open secret of child sex abuse in the workplace” quotes a spokesman of Alpha Foundation, an NGO, in The Guardian (June 15, 2018) as saying that about 3.8 million children work in agriculture, leather factories, mechanics’ workshops, restaurants, and they’re vulnerable to sex abuse. Research shows that working children “are expected to indulge in sexual activity with employers, peers and acquaintances.

“Refugees caught up in child prostitution in Athens”, an article by Daniel Howden (July 14, 2016), draws a grim picture of open-air brothels. Out of 57,000 refugees, 40% were children, 1,146 being unaccompanied. One child recounts that “Most of the time, the men want sex up against a tree or in the bushes. Most of them don’t use condoms.” On the other hand, Humanium, an NGO, says, “In Pakistan, more than 95% of truckers engage in sexual activities with young boys as they tend to live more than 21 days away from home. Boys are therefore a distraction during their time off.” To me, it’s clear: for these truckers, the children are toys to be played with for some time and then discarded. Children are human beings and their feelings must be respected. Preying on children is sinful.

Ghana may have 200,000 children compelled into sex trade. Commercial child sex is illegal, unfair and immoral yet it takes place every day underground on a big scale in every country. No effective measures have ever been taken to stop it.

Sex tourism 

Many tourists visit a country not only for the stunning landscapes, the food, the shopping and the historical sites but also for sex. It brings the country considerable revenue. Everyone knows about child prostitution in the tourism sector though the country wouldn’t like to make it public. They don’t want the world to see their darker sides. Many tourists are hungry for sex with the young and every country has its own clandestine network.

Child sex has always been around but advances in technology are today facilitating the activity. Isn’t it ironical that traffickers are taking full advantage of technology to reach out to children but the authorities aren’t doing as much in order to track them down? The traffickers have various methods to attract children and one of them is creating trust in their victims. The effectiveness of this strategy is summed up clearly in a BBC News article “Child Sexual Exploitation: how the system failed” (March 16, 2018): “A girl starved of attention and kindness is more likely to believe she is in a caring relationship, leaving the perpetrator free to coerce her to have sex with friends and associates.” 

Since a long time now, NGOs and others have been combating for a world where children’s rights are respected, protected and enforced. But little has improved in commercial sex involving children. The problem is complex: poverty is a leading cause of homelessness; among the clients who visit the children are policemen, high officials and businessmen; the activity is well organised and it’s not easy to bust it; governments aren’t in a hurry to fill legislation gaps; maybe authorities don’t want to intervene too much in what they consider to be a personal matter.

Anyway, child prostitution lays bare the extent of men’s lust, greed and cruelty. The institution of marriage itself is in question here. Had the predators been happy with their wives, would they have so often sought fleeting pleasures with other women or with innocent children? We also notice a significant loss of moral values.

UNICEF suggests that “in the last 30 years, trafficking in women and children in Asia for sexual exploitation alone has victimized over 30 million”. It considers the activity as getting worse and the victims as “virtual slaves, who have been stripped of their rights”.

According to Huffpost (Nov 18, 2016), child sex is a $32 billion industry each year across the globe.