Child Prostitution Essay, Research Paper
It started out like any other day. Sokha was helping her stepfather beg for money on the streets of Phnom Penh. Unfortunately, neither made a cent. Frustrated and drunk from cheap liquor, her father raped her. Not satisfied, he invited his friends to join him. One after the other, they took turns in pleasuring themselves, until she was reduced to a bloody, crumpled heap. She was only 9 years old. Months later, her father sold her to a brothel. There, like any other girl, she was forced onto ruthless men every night for a mere 20 cents. In addition to that, she never received any of it. Trapped in the windowless brothel, her hopes of living a normal life were diminished (Lee 83-86).
Meanwhile, Julie was raped by a stranger at knife-point when she was fourteen years old. Sexually traumatized by the stranger, she was neglected by her parents. Her heartless mother had even told her to keep it a secret and never to talk about it again. Seeking love and assurance, Julie made friends with Irving, who turned out to be a pimp. Before she knew it, she was trapped in the profession. She wanted to get away, but then her own mother would not even help her (Sereny 30-83).
The similarities between the causes of these two cases are not obvious. While Sokha was being forced physically by her own parents, Julie seems to be lured into prostitution. One might even think that Julie had even chose to be in that profession. Although this is true, Julie had in fact forced into it, not by physical action, but by emotional neglect, a circumstance leaving her with no options. While child prostitution is obviously problematic, the causes and solutions are not clear-cut. In third world countries such as Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia, low-income families are selling their own children into prostitution. While in this nation, broken families and abusive families indirectly forced these children to find salvation in this profession. Actions have been taken, both national and international, by various organizations to save these victims. But why do these girls keep on going back? What can we do about it?
One cause of child prostitution is that the children are being force into it by their own parents or guardian. Take Sokha for example, the people that she trusted with her life betrayed her by selling her a brothel in order to get a meager amount of cash. These plights are not uncommon. In fact, a 1995 survey in Cambodia on child victims of prostitution found that 40 percent were sold by their own families and another 15 percent by friends (Lim 180). Driven by their economic standards, most of these low-income families lack moral values. They were not given the chance to get the education or knowledge on how to raise a family. Before they knew it, they found themselves burden with unwanted children. These parents would rather sell their kids than work hard to earn a living. Girls like Sokha end up being sold out of their supposedly safe environment without even knowing what lies ahead of them.
In the United States, broken families and abusive families also cause child prostitution. When it goes wrong, parents hardly ever know how and why it happened (Sereny 22). Too caught up in their own relationship problems, the parents do not realize what had happened to their children. In addition to that, Sereny also believed that the majority of girls who become child prostitutes appear to have suffered childhood traumas associated with early sexual experiences. Combined with other family tensions or emotional deficiencies whether in the child or in the family makes the probability of catastrophe in puberty extremely high (27-28). Being sexually abused by their own flesh and blood is not the end to their suffering; they are also being deprived of the emotional assurance that they need from their parents. In the end, these children run away from home and seek love and attention from strangers who often turned out to be pimps.
So, what actions have been taken to stop all this? Somaly Mam, one the victims of child prostitution, established AFESIP in Cambodia, a French acronym that translates to Action for Women in Precarious Situations. Funded by agencies such as UNICEF, it rescues girls and women from forced prostitution and helps them reintegrate into society. AFESIP workers would go into the brothel pretending to be potential customers or AIDS educators, and secretly talked to girls to sign a certificate stating that they are willing to leave the place. Then after the police raid the place, the girls are set free. Besides that, they would provide shelters or homes for these girls to live and heal. At the shelters, they are taught skills such as weaving and farming (Lee 86). In addition to that, ECPAT-USA: End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes, is also fighting this growing industry. Started in Thailand, it is now global with national affiliates in 27 countries. The goals of ECPAT-USA are to raise awareness about the plight of sexually exploited children wherever they are in the world; to develop strategies to address and prevent the involvement of U.S. pedophiles, tourists, military personnel and businessmen in the sexual exploitation of children; and to promote the ratification and implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the child U.S. government (Women s International Network News 42). Equally important, juvenile detention centers all over the country also play an important role in saving these children lives. Julie found the help that she needed in these centers instead of from her parents (Sereny 80).
Yet, why do most of these children keep going back? Being forced into prostitution by parents or surroundings is not the biggest problem. About 20 percent of the girls go back into prostitution [after being treated at the shelter]. They have been completely destroyed by the brothels and the pimps (Lee 86). These are the girls that have been saved from the horrible places and sheltered in safe environment. Trapped in brothels, these girls in Cambodia are tortured by electricity. Besides that, some girls had their hymen restitched in order to be sold as virgins over and over again because their demands are higher (Lee 86). These inhumanities had lead these girls to believe that they could not escape from their pimps. These girls are terrified of them. Furthermore, after being released from the shelter, these girls do not know where to go. Surrounded by people that are disgraced by them, hunted back by their pimps and abandoned by their own families, where else can they go but back to prostitution?
It appears that parents or guardians are the core reason for this devastating problem. Whether they realize it or not, they are denying the blame by not accepting that they have the kind of children that are very likely to get into prostitution. Instead, the parents will find some other means to divert the blame, such as the pimps or their monetary crisis. Once trapped in the profession, these children are finding it hard to get out of this horrific cycle even after they are being saved from it. What can we do about it?
There are a lot of ways to take actions. First, start from your own neighborhood. Be aware of strange looking people in your surroundings. Are these people a threat to the teenagers in your neighborhood? Be alert of your neighborhood, and be informed of the possible actions that could be taken to prevent it, such as what number to call or where is the nearest organization involved in the programs stated previously. Then, a more global approach would be either to donate some money to the organizations that are working hard to abolish this problem or to volunteer in these organizations yourself. By getting first hand experience, you will be more aware of the seriousness of the problem. Even though we are not fully responsible for causing the problem in the first place, we can in fact take actions in preventing it from growing.
Lee, Jennifer. Children Rescued from Prostitution. Marie Claire Feb. 2000: 83-86.
Lim, Lin Lean. The Sex Sector: The economic and social bases of prostitution in Southeast Asia. Geneva: International Labour Office, 1998.
Sereny, Gitta. The Invisible Children: Child Prostitution in America, West Germany and Great Britain. New York: A.Knopf, 1985.
Women s International Network News. ECPAT: End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes. Winter99, Vol. 25 Issue 1, p42. 1 Feb. 2000
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