Ten years ago, child prostitution was not widely spread as now, especially that there were very few and far sources for children to work in the sex trade. These children usually came from Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Brazil and a number of other poor countries. Today, however, child prostitution is considered to be a booming business, especially that it covers a large number of countries, especially in Central Europe. Children are now coming from Romania, Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, Czechoslovakia and many others. There are a number of causes for this dramatic change. International organizations and world states are trying to find ways and measures which will reduce and end this problem. Millions of children are suffering all over the world from child prostitution, and prevention is immediately needed.
Child prostitution is not a new problem. It has existed in the past since the first brothels were established all over the world. Victorious warriors did not only take the women of the defeated, but also their children, probably to have them as sexual subjects. Later on, when organized sex started, children were kidnapped or purchased from their parents in order to employ them like slaves in the sex trade.
For decades, the world centers for child prostitution were scattered in the five continents. The children were usually brought over from Asia, Africa and Latin America to customers in Europe, North America and Australia. Children from the third world countries were more favored because of their lower prices (Greenberg, p.11). Since the trade in child sex is illegal, most of the children were smuggled through certain ports, especially in India and Dominican Republic (Greenberg, p.11). Once they reached their destinations, these children had no hope of escape. They usually lived a life of diseases, horror, humiliation and slavery. Many of them died at early ages, especially from sexually transmitted diseases and from negligence and neglect.
The major cause for child prostitution is poverty. Many parents all over the world sell their children to pimps and child smugglers in order to get some money to satisfy their need for a better life. In Philippines, for example, it was found out that most of the families selling a child to a sex trader, would do so in order to purchase a TV or a washing machine. As the gap between the poor and the rich increased, many families in the lower strata of society had to trade in their children as the only way to catch up with the increasing demands of modern life.
What makes children sexually attractive to an elder person is something that scientists and psychologists have long tried to find out. One major myth which exists is that child rapists and pedophiles (individuals who purchase child sex) are only males. It was found out that there are women rapists and pedophiles just as interested in child sex as males. This makes the scope of the problem even wider and more complicated.
Anita Whilhelm, a psychologist who has studied sexual deviation in adults, individuals seek child sex for a number of causes. Such sexual deviations may be the result of psychological pressures and weaknesses. The deviant individual satisfies his or her repressed feelings by imposing sexual fantasies upon the child. Besides, many of these deviant individuals were also in the past victims of sexual abuse, that is, when they were children (Santrock, p.545).
Politics is also a cause for child prostitution. In 1989, the collapse of the Soviet Union opened one of the largest markets for child prostitution. The worst representation is perhaps the 60-km stretch along the German-Czech border known as “kid-prostitution alley” (Greenberg, p.13). Along this line, there are more than 30,000 children displayed for sexual favors at low financial returns. This means that there is almost one child every two meters on this line. In Warsaw, the capital of Poland, there are more than 5,000 child prostitutes, almost double the number of those in Germany. After these changes in the child sex market, pedophiles are no longer forced to take long trips to Asia and Latin America in order to satisfy their deviant needs. They can simply take car trips into Europe, or even at home, as many of the Germans do (Greenberg, p.13).
Child prostitution does not only include having sex with children. Child pornography, which is one of the largest industries related to prostitution all over the world is also part of child prostitution. It involves photographs and films of children in sexual positions, alone or with adults (Decker, p.218).
It is evident that child prostitution is today found in an increasing number of countries, especially in industrialized countries of the world, such as the US, and western Europe. In many cases where pedophiles are unable to purchase sex with sexuality, they are resorting to crime. One example is Marc Dutroux who was responsible for the death of two girls at the age of eight, and for kidnapping another two children at the age of twelve and thirteen. Dutroux was also found guilty of sexually abusing these children. If Belgium was shocked for the horrors involved in these crimes, there are far more crimes in Britain, France, Germany and other European countries which have also shaken western societies. Child sexual abuse is becoming a serious threat to society, and so is child prostitution which is also included under child sexual abuse (Greenberg, pp. 8-9).
Disgust and humiliation are not the only reasons which stand behind the fact that child prostitution is a disaster on human kind. The spread of AIDS, Syphilis, and a list of dangerous sex diseases among these children involved in the prohibited trade make immediate international prevention a priority (Jaffe, p.69).
Is there any hope to stop these dreadful deeds against children? This is a question that many governments and international organizations are asking right now. In 1989, a Convention on the Rights of the Child was held in order to enforce stronger limitations and regulations against child prostitution. The Convention was a success since it enforced the subject as a very sensitive issue that demanded solution. However, it was a failure since the members at the convention even failed to find a common definition for terms such as “child” and “consent” which are basic to identify child prostitution (Greenberg, p.12).
Another attempt to prevent child prostitution was decreeing a law by several countries such as the US, Britain and Australia. According to this law, the citizens of these countries would have to face trial upon returning to their countries for child sexual crimes they committed in other countries, even if they had been punished in these other countries. The law seems harsh enough to put an end to the sexual tours made by many tourists from these countries. Nevertheless, from a legal point of view, it might be impossible for this law to be applied, for a very simple reason. If a British tourist is sentenced for child prostitution in a country such as Thailand for example, the British government might not be able to carry out the necessary investigations to reach a result and convict him for the crime. Consequently, the law is not expected to lead any where (Jaffe, p.69).
Despite the difficulties, many world nations have decided to fight the problem of child prostitution before it started. Austria and the US, for example, have outlawed any pornography trade which involved children (Greenberg, p.11). The age of consent has also been raised in a number of countries, such as Sri Lanka where the age of consent was raised from twelve to sixteen. This meant that any adult caught involved in any sexual act with any boy or girl under this age, would be convicted for child prostitution. The US went as far as to consider traveling with the intention of engaging in sexual acts with minors to be illegal (Greenberg, p.11).
World governments and several concerned international organizations realized that the measures that will really reduce child prostitution are those which will eliminate the causes in the first place. The first step was to initiate a child car program in the countries which are considered as center sources for child trade. These countries include Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia and other Asian countries (Jaffe, p. 96). In fact, the government of Singapore has even started a unique program, whereby, investors who start child-related projects in Singapore will be compensated for their losses during the first year. With the efforts of the Ministry of Community development, the government of Singapore expects that such programs will cause a substantial reduction in child prostitution (Jaffe, p. 69).
Similar efforts and programs have been carried out by the government of Hong Kong which is among the countries that suffer most from child prostitution. Moreover, the government of Hong Kong is trying to improve the curricula and teacher training within all centers for fighting child prostitution (Jaffe, p.69).
Child prostitution is a problem which requires immense participation and cooperation from world nations and organizations. Generations of young children are destroyed every year in many spots of the world. It is the responsibility of world governments to find measures to stop this unhuman trade world wide.
Child sex is a major issue in socialization. Children who are traded in for sex need to be socialized and rehabilitated within normal social upbringing, otherwise, they may grow up to be deviants and isolated individuals. International organizations concerned with child sexuality have been trying to prevent this crime, but they have not in return proposed any resolutions for those children who are being held victims of sexual aggression.
These children face two major problems. The first problem is a psychological problem, since these children are psychologically devastated. They develop feelings of humiliation, devastation, isolation and low morale and self-esteem. On the other hand, they face a social problem, which is that they are not able to resocialize. They stay aloof of society and its normative development because their crisis is separates them from society. They are liable to aggression, social neglect, poverty and lack of security and reference. Consequently, they need social and psychological support, neither of which is available. Child sexuality remains a major social problem that needs to be considered.
Decker, John. (1979). Prostitution: Regulation and Control. Colorado: Fred Rothman & Co.
Greenberg, Susan. (September 2, 1996). Children for Sale. Newsweek.
Jaffe, Majd K. (1996). Child Care Information Exchange: United Nations Publications.
Santrock, John. (1993). Adolescence. New York: McGraw Hill Inc.