Blaming Children

Today I would like to address one of the great misconceptions: blaming children for their own exploitation.

I have been asked several times during my study of CSET (commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking) how many of the women and children actually want to be in the pornographic or prostitution industry. How many of them actually choose this for themselves? This is a great misconception when looking at and trying to understand CSET. I am not naive enough to believe this never happens, that no women ever choose this for themselves, but this is most often not the case – especially with children.

I read a great article by Amalee McCoy titled “Blaming Children for Their Own Exploitation: The Situation in East Asia” from the ECPAT 7th Report on the Implementation of the Agenda for Action Against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children which covered this topic well.

She talks about how “a failure on the part of societies at large to understand that all children who engage in commercial sexual transactions are victims of exploitation, whatever their circumstances, has led to the widespread view that some children ‘choose’ to endure exploitation and its physical and psychosocial repercussions, and thus surrender their rights as children to protection.” This is simply not the case. As we will see McCoy explain further and as I will hopefully cover in future discussion on this blog.

“A survey conducted by the Asian Women and Children’s Network in Yokohama in 2001 determined that many girls involved in enjo kosai [compensated dating] had not received adequate sex education that taught self-respect, and were negatively affected by a conformist education lacking in human rights consciousness. The pull factors behind children’s involvement in enjo kosai vary somewhat: curiosity, a search for affection in the absence of attention at home, loneliness, an effort to join what may be a fashionable school trend, and a way of earning gifts and extra spending money to supplement living expenses, buy consumer goods, cover nights out with friends or pay for hobbies and trips.” While some of these pull factors seem like decisions made by the children – many of them dig deep psychologically and are often times not even recognized by the child. Without the proper understanding about what they are doing and what it is truly costing them – in regard to the emotional, physical and psychological damage – they are not making an informed “decision”.

“Media reports often lump enjo kosai cases together with issues of promiscuity and loose morals, depicting the children involved as spoiled, greedy and motivated by a desire for the latest mobile phone or BMW Series 5 sedan. Such reports rarely shed light on the perpetrators, the likely psychological damage to the child, the vulnerability to sexually transmitted infections, or the grave and sometimes fatal physical danger that accompanies liaisons with strangers.” In many countries, unfortunately, it is still illegal to be a prostitute and that is a fairly easy case to try, but it is not as illegal or easy to try someone for purchasing sex or being the owner of a brothel who sells women and children to others as an organ for rent. And that is just prostitution – if we begin a discussion on pornography and the difficulties in even bringing a lawsuit up against that industry we could talk for a while (and we will – in a future post).

“The issue of consent is at the crux of the perception that children involved in enjo kosai have ‘asked for it’ and are therefore accountable, while children who are impoverished or more obviously coerced into prostitution are deserving of protection and sympathy. The perception that children ‘voluntarily’ sell their bodies to supplement consumerist desires encourages the misguided belief that such children consent to engage in an illegal activity and thus to their own exploitation, and that they therefore deserve legal punishment or sanction. This view fails to recognize that people under 18 are considered, under the terms of the CRC, to have need for special protection while they developmentally acquire the experience and knowledge required to appreciate fully the physical and psychological ramifications of adult roles and responsibilities. Thus, children cannot consent to their own sexual exploitation.”

Now we can begin another discussion about women over 18 – but I think I know where I still stand on that conversation. The point on this post is to break down the misconception that children are somehow to blame or making the conscious decision to be in prostitution because they want to be there. This is not the case. And each one of you has a responsibility to do something about it.

God, be with those children who are placed in the difficult position of CSET everyday with a lack of opportunity or options available to them. And even those who may have other opportunities available to them but stay here because of a lack of education, or the threat of others or the coercion they don’t understand – give us the eyes to see how we can be your agents of advocacy and change.


Ashley L said...

When I traveled to the Philippines this summer, I met and worked with a woman, who is in her 50's and currently lives in the US, but was raised in the Philippines. This woman was sold as a sex slave by her parents when she was only 6yrs old. Had her family not been impoverished, hungry and desparate, they likely would have been able to support their daughter, instead of selling her in order to gain more income. As a little girl who could only trust her parents to make this life-altering choice for her... all she could do was comply. Now in her 50's and rescued from a life of commercial sex (which she had been a part of for over 12 years), she is doing what she can to forgive her parents and help other girls who are in the same position. The position that robs an innocent childhood and subjects children as victims in a sex-driven society. And in these societies which are under corrupt goverments, often times a woman makes the independent decision to work as a dancer/prostitute because this "job" offers an income that is much greater than most jobs that women tend to work. The question is then diverted from a question of morality.. and more appropriately.. a question of survival.

Julia, please continue to share more about your heart for this relevent issue. Discussion is needed.

the kicker is... said...

hey - got your message on my xanga. yep, i have a new place I'm writing. and you should be able to access it from here! I decided to be a little less google-able, so my name is not tied into my blog at all. feel free to honor that when you leave comments :)
I'd love to catch up - i know you have cell phone phobia, so do you have another thought on how to connect?
btw, I'm glad you're still writing. i love hearing your heart.
I've been pretty swamped, so my writing so far has been really weak. it'll kick in more this summer. LOVE YOU!!

wanderingellimac said...


It is so difficult when families are in such dire situations with such a lack of options. And children are raised to trust their parents and much more than in western society feel a sense of responsibility when it comes to providing for their family when in need.
It is definitely a question of survival but the question is how to overcome and change that - what a long road ahead.
Thanks for your thoughts. Miss you girl!!

wugger said...

another good post. thank you.