By Cherise Charleswell
Globally, children – particularly young girls and teenagers – are victims of dicks and the men whom they are attached to. To summarize the problem in the most straight-forward, unapologetic, and honest manner, would be to state that, ” it revolves around the fact that male pedophiles are using their dicks, religion, the poverty of a young girl’s families, the desperation of a child prostitute, as well as their own perverted urges as an excuse to objectify, exploit, forcibly penetrate, harm, wed, and deny education and social mobility to young girls around the world .”
Across cultures and societies, males are viewed as superior and generally hold a position of prestige, despite the fact that a simple latent expression of genes cause cellular differentiation, which transform a feminine fetus into a male. Yes, all life begins in the feminine form; and, ironically, women are deemed the lesser being. It is from this point of privilege that men, and the entire cultural system of patriarchy, readily exert power over, exploit, and harm women – and even more heinous is when they these acts are committed against young girls. Patriarchy, societal acceptance and/or denial, and the women who help to perpetuate the problem of child exploitation, rape, prostitution, and unchecked pedophilia – often in the name of religious fundamentalism – are equally to blame for this tragedy. Further, as “progressive” as the “developed world” and “West” claim to be, these nations continue to share in this global epidemic, public health concern, and human rights crisis; involving child endangerment, exploitation, and outright rape. Thus, it is not a Third World issue, or phenomenon that is exclusive to the developing world.
The definition of “culture” may be used to help understand how the culture of child exploitation and rape is accepted and carried out, as well as provide clues as to how to develop interventions that can help to eradicate the epidemic. Most anthropologists would define culture as the shared set of (implicit and explicit) values, ideas, concepts, and rules of behavior that allow a social group to function and live. Rather than simply the presence or absence of a particular attribute, culture is understood as the dynamic and evolving socially-constructed reality that exists in the minds of social group members. (Hudelson, 2004).1 The term, culture, was first used by English anthropologist, Edward B. Tylor, in his book, “Primitive Culture,” which has a telling ethnocentric title, and which was published in 1871. In this groundbreaking book, Tylor noted that culture is “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.” Ultimately, culture is nothing more than a pigment of the human imagination, which is manifested as a full range of learned human behavior patterns. The fact that it is dynamic and can be learned, unlearned, changed, and taught in a different manner, means that there is certainly an opportunity for interventions that focus on changing patriarchal cultures which are exploitative, oppressive, and harmful.
As their daughter I was taught that it was
my role to serve, to be weak, to be free from
the burden of thinking, to caretake and nurture
others. My brother was taught that it was his role
to be served; to provide; to be strong; to think,
strategize, and plan; and to refuse to caretake or
*bell hooks, Understanding Patriarchy*
Patriarchy is political-social-cultural system of male dominance and superiority that shapes societal attitudes. This system is one that insists males are inherently endowed with the right to dominate, and may do so through psychological terrorism and violence (hooks, 2004).2 Like other cultural systems, patriarchy is often taught through religion and social conditioning. It is these channels of learning that greatly help to perpetuate this system of social organization, in which both men and women believe that embracing patriarchy is the moral thing to do, and that women and girls should fully accept their role of submission, including granting men full privilege over their lives and bodies.
Exploitation and abuse often accompany privilege, especially when cloaked in religious fervor, patriotism, wealth, and celebrity. One of the Great men revered in recent history was Manu (Mahtma) Ghandi, who used his position of privilege to conduct perverse acts. He may be viewed as the classic example of a sexual predator – a man who utilizes his position of power and privilege to manipulate and sexually exploit the people he directly controls (Banerji, 2013)3; and Ghandi, like many other men who choose to make use of male privilege, exploited and abused young girls. In his ashram, Ghandi had young women – many still teenagers – including his own grand-niece, sleep naked with him in his bed at night, where they were to be used in his “experiments” to see whether he could resist and continue with a bout of celibacy. However, archival references support the contention that Ghandi was practicing the traditional, historic form of Indian celibacy, which is defined as one thing – controlling ejaculation; and, therefore, leaving everything else permitted (Banjeri, 2013). 3
Patriarchal Notions of and Portrayal of Femininity
The system of patriarchy establishes certain notions and expectations of femininity, which are based on what is believed to be the role of women and girls, along with what is deemed pleasing and sexually stimulating to men. These notions are translated throughout any given society, and are manifested in advertisements, clothing, and, most importantly, societal attitudes. Like any other product of culture, beauty is simply a construct, and it varies from culture to culture and changes over time (Frith, Shaw, & Cheng, 2005). 4 While each culture has a set of general beliefs about what constitutes femininity and beauty, (Frith, Shaw, & Cheng, 2005) 4 these beliefs are based on patriarchy. It is men that choose and dictate what is to be deemed attractive, feminine, and acceptable; up to and including a woman’s work duties.
A unique opportunity to study the construction of beauty in a culture is through advertisements, due to advertiser’s notoriety for promoting a “beauty ideal” (Greer, 1999).5 Again, these ideals are set by men and upheld by women and girls who attempt to please and attract men, and who simply adhere to social expectations. A 1992 study conducted in the U.S., which involved assembling a set of photograph of models and instructing the editors of major U.S. fashion magazines to sort the piles based on the similarity of looks, resulted in the classification of relatively distinct beauty types: Classic, Feminine, Sensual, Exotic, Cute, Girl-Next-Door, Sex Kitten, and Trendy (Solomon, Ashmore, and Longo, 1992).6 After looking at the types and titles of the categories of “beauty” that were created, there are a number of things that become apparent. Patriarchal classifications of beauty are based on sex, ethnocentricism (in defining what is exotic), roles of submission and male pleasure, and male fetishism. These exact characteristics are carried into advertisements that are aimed at young girls, as well as those that feature young girls. Even more disturbing is that these fetishized notions of beauty form the basis of child prostitution and sexual exploitation. Here, women’s and girl’s bodies are simply the object of the male gaze to be defined, categorized, gawked at, exploited, and placed under ownership.
In fact, a recent study by the Parents Television Council, conducted during the 2009-2010 TV season and based on a content analysis of the most popular primetime broadcast shows among 12 to 17-years-olds, showed that Hollywood “oversexualizes” teen girls more than any other group (ParentsTV.org, 2010) 7. Researchers released the following statement regarding their findings: “Tinseltown’s eagerness is to not only objectify and fetishize young girls, but to sexualize them in such a way that real teens are led to believe their sole value comes from their sexuality (ParentsTv.org, 2010). 7
The report’s findings included:
· Underage female characters are shown participating in a higher percentage of sexual depictions compared to adults (47% and 29% respectively)
· Only 5% of the underage female characters communicated any form of dislike for being sexualized
· Out of all the sexualized female characters depicted in the underage and young adult category for the entire database, 86% were presented as only being of high school age
· Based upon a definition established by the American Psychological Association of “healthy” vs. “unhealthy” sexuality, the study findings show that 93% of the sexual incidents involving underage female characters occurred within a context that qualified as “unhealthy”
· The data show that 73% of the underage sexualized incidents were presented in a humorous manner or as a punch line to a joke. ( www.parentstv.org/sexualization, 2010) 7
The hypersexualization of adolescent girls extends beyond advertisements and television programming to the actual products created for and targeting them. Just last month, due to public outcry, Walmart was forced to pull the “Naughty Leopard” costume, which was made for toddler girls, from its shelves and online storefront. The costume featured a black tutu with purple trim, a headband and matching ears, and was not exactly a leopard. Interestingly enough, the outcry didn’t stem from an objection to it appearing “too sexy,” but to the description and use of the word “naughty.” Again, this goes back to the patriarchal-defined categories of femininity, as this costume simply represented the “toddler sex kitten.”
Of course, patriarchal society gives girls other cues as to what is sexy, attractive, desirable, and feminine. A classic example is with the Barbie doll – particularly her unattainable and exaggerated measurements or physique. There are also other dolls, particularly the overly made-up Bratz dolls, which appear very grown-up and adult-oriented compared to the young, adolescent girls that play with them. Even when discussing “child’s play” in a patriarchal society, young girls are cultured early on to the roles defined for them by the patriarchy. Their dolls and hobbies revolve around being “the hypersexual seductress” or “the nuturer” who “spends the entire day looking after her baby doll.” Finally, another gleaming example of the oversexualization of young girls is the advent of high-heeled shoes designed for children who are still developing, and still prone to accidents, and thus can be at great risk for injury when wearing these shoes. Having shoes such as these – designed specifically go beyond the occasional “Dress-Up play” that little girls may carry on in their mother’s closet – comes across as a form of child hypersexualization.
Dickmatization in the East & Developing Nations
Young girls and teenagers living in the East and in developing nations are most at-risk ofDickmatization, and this epidemic of child exploitation in the region is tied to a number of factors; particularly religion, poverty, societal apathy, and perversion. Central to this epidemic is the practice of Child Marriage and human trafficking. Child marriage is defined as a formal or informal union in which the bride or groom is under age 18, and primarily involves girls (Roudi-Fahimi & Ibrahim, 2013).8
Typical Characteristics of Child Brides
· Under the age of 18; with a large majority being under the age of 15
· Come from families who are struggling with poverty, and have a financial incentive for marrying their daughters off
· Come from families and/or cultures with strong religious fundamentalist backgrounds; where their religious beliefs and doctrines condone the practice
· Uneducated, with not much resources and opportunities were given to them for a foundational education; illiterate
· Typically invisible in government statistics, being that they are not inc school, are often not officially registered as being married, utilizing very few government services, and do not access health services
The Cold, Hard, Sick Facts
The sexual exploitation of children is a global crisis and the cold hard facts may be shocking to many:
· Most child marriages take place between the ages of 15 and 18
· One in nine child brides are married before they reach the age of 15 (Huffington Post, 2013) 9
· Over the next decade, an estimated 142 million girls will become child brides worldwide, which accounts for roughly 38,000 per day (Huffington Post, 2013) 9
· According to a 2013 report of the International Center for Research on Women, today, there are nearly 70 million child brides worldwide (ICRW, 2013) 10
· There are higher rates of child marriage in poorer and less developed regions of the world, particularly in rural areas (UNICEF, 201211; UNICEF, 2010)12
· The majority of the 25 nations with the highest rates of child marriage, were affected by conflict or natural disasters (World Vision, 2013) 13
· The highest rates of child marriage are found in West Africa, followed by southern Asia, northern Africa/the Middle East, and Latin America (Svanemyr, Chandra-Mouli, Christiansen, and Mbizvo, 2012)14.
· 51 countires have national child marriage prevalence rates of 25% and higher (ICRW, 2013) 10
· Due to Asia’s large population size and ratesof early marriage, approximately half of girls in early marriages live there (Svanemyr, Chandra-Mouli, Christiansen, and Mbizvo, 2012).14
· According to a 2011 UNICEF report, in Niger, Chad, and Bangladesh, more than a third of women aged 20 -24 were already married by the age of 15 (UNICEF, 2011)15
· In the Arab Region, 1 in 7 girls marries before her 18th birthday (United Nations Population Fund, 2012)16
· In the Arab Region the highest rates of child marriage are see in the poorest countries – Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, and South Sudan, where annual per capita incomes in 2011 were less than US $2,000 (World Bank, 2013)17
· In South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa 38% of women marry before they are 18 years old (UNICEF, 2011)15
The statistical evidence makes it clear that it would be best to refer to child marriage as a pandemic, and there have been a number of recent reports and stories that have made global headlines and are helping to reignite public discourse and outcry over this practice that violates the human rights of girls and young women. An October 2013 law passed by the Iranian parliament, which allows a men to marry their adopted-daughters, (Daily mail)18 is among the most recent stories that have helped to draw attention back on this pandemic. This law also allows for girls to marry at 13, and those younger than 13 would only require their father’s permission to do so. And even though Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, has been hailed as a president, his backing of this bill begs to differ, as it basically legalizes pedophilia. Here, all a pedophile would have to do to draw away disapproval is adopt a child who he intends to wed.
Adding to the must-needed discourse and mounting interventions is the story of Rawan, an 8-year-old girl from Haradh, in northern Yemen, who was married off to a 40-year-old man. Rawan died on her “wedding night” after suffering internal injuries (the tearing of her uterus and other organs) due to sexual trauma; with the official cause of death being internal bleeding.19 (Al Bawaba) Worldwide human rights organizations are calling for the arrest of her “husband,” and joining that call for action is Hooria Mashhour, Yemen’s minister of Human Rights. Following news of Rawan’s death, Masshour released the following statement: “This isn’t the first time a child marriage has happened in Yemen, so we should not focus only on this case. Many child marriages take place every year in Yemen. It’s time to end the practice.”20 (Jamjoom & Almasmari, 2013)
Just one week after Rawan’s story and death were reported, the story of a 12-year-old Indian girl, who was raped in Jharkhand’s Koderma district, surfaced. The girl committed suicide by consuming pesticide after succumbing to the intense pressure of the family of the rapist, who demanded that the charges be dropped and that she marry her attacker (Pandey & Ghosh, 2013)21
The Consequences of Being a Child Bride
Other than the obvious loss of childhood and innocence, child brides face a number of consequences that impact their lives long-term. These consequences include:
· The exclusion of girls from gaining an education, and locking them into low-income or no-income domestic work and child rearing, and thus trapped in a cycle of poverty
· Low literacy rates and decreased opportunities for social mobility
· Psychological challenges, which may lead to suicide
· Pregnancy-related complications remain the leading killer of girls aged 15 – 19 years old (ICRW, 2013)10
· Maternal deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth for girls aged 15 -19 accounts for 70,00 deaths each year (Conde-Agudelo, Belizan, & Lammers, 2005)22.
· Lasting complications such as obsteric fistula is greater for girls in early and middle adolescnence (Santhya KG, 2010)23.
· Girls under the age of 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than girls over the age of 20 (ICRW, 2013)10
· Girls married before the age of 18 are more likely to experience domestic violence and depression than those who marry later (ICRW, 2013 10; Raj, 201024)
· Child marriage increases the likelihood of HIV infection25 (Clark, 2004)
The consequences that extend beyond the child bride and to her children, community, and country are as follows:
· An infant born to a mother under the age of 18 is 60% more likely to die in its first year of life than one born to a mother over the age of 19 (UNICEF, 2011)15
· Infants born to young mothers are more likely to be born underweight, premature, and to experience serious health problems (Raj, 2010)26
· Child bride’s limited education which locks them into poverty, also contributes to the intergenerational continuation of poverty
Outcry & Rebellion
There have been a number of international agreements and laws put in place, as well as ongoing efforts of many interventional programs that seek to eradicate child marriage. These efforts have been formal, grassroots, and, at times, carried out by the victims themselves. Among the most notable international agreements condemning child marriage is The Programme of Action of the 1994 United Nations International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), which calls on countries to eliminate child marriage. On November 17, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution (A/RES/66/170), which designated October 11th as the first International Day of the Girl (Svanermyr, Mouli, 2012)14; where child marriage was the selected theme. There are also grassroots, non-profit, and non-governmental organizations that have taken the lead in the fight to eradicate child marriage. One such program is Berhane Hewan in Ethiopia, which targets married and unmarried girls ages 10 and 19, and seeks to support them with mentors and materials for school. Other programs include ISHRAQ in Egypt, which is a two year program targeting girls’ ages 12 to 15 years of age, and which aims to help them return to the classroom, beginning with teaching them literacy, numeracy, and health skills. In India, there is the Maharashtra Life Skills Program, which conducts a gathering of unmarried adolescent girls for one hour each weekday over a year with the purpose of learning about reproductive and sexual health, communication and decision-making skills, and a host of other topics.
A noted case regarding the amending of the Nigerian constitution has led to a massive public backlash to the open practice of child marriage in the West African nation. 39% of Nigerian girls marry before the age of 18, while that rate balloons to over half of the girls under the age of 16, for those living in the Northern half of the country (Oduah, 2013).27 The backlash came after a majority voted to delete a clause in the country’s constitution, which had been standing since 1979. Removing this clause would change the definition of the “full age” where one can renounce her citizenship from 18 years of age, to include any woman who is married, including a prepubescent, married girl. The biggest supporterr of the change in this clause, and the essential re-classification of an adolescent child to woman, based on a forced marriage, was Senator Ahmed Sani Yerima, whose notoriety revolves around his introduction of Shari’a Islamic law to his state jurisdiction, rendering the region a theocracy, as well as his infamous marriage to a 13-year-old Egyptian girl in 2010, who he paid $100,000 dowry for, and made his fourth wife. Yerima’s principal argument against the reversal of the amendment was that it was “un-Islamic;” dismissing the fact that Nigeria is a country equally split between Muslims and Christians, and also have a number who still practice traditional systems of spirituality.
Joining a national and international coalition, which includes the Nigeria Women’s Fund, Gender and Constitution Reform Network, and the International Federation of Women Lawyers, in their protest against the Senate’s attempt to uphold the controversial clause, are prominent Nollywood actresses Stella Damascus and Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, and the country’s former vice president, Atiku Abubakar. Stella released a passionate and scathing video denouncing the senate and calling out Nigeria’s first lady, Patience Jonathan, who had remained silent on the matter. Omotola, who was included in Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2013, released the following statement: “Today, I am one of the most influential people in the world because I wasn’t given off to marriage before the age of 18.” (Oduah, 2013)27
The Muslim Rights Concern nongovernmental organization defended Senator Yerima’s religious claim and had the audacity to call on Nigerians to practice more tolerance, as Islam does not place an age requirement on marriage. There is much irony in this organization’s name and in the official statements they released in support of Yerima. First, the word “rights” is included in the organization’s title, and it its mission is to champion the rights of Muslim (men), all while trampling on the human rights of girls and young women. Second, the group asked for tolerance of choices made in accordance to religious beliefs all while choosing to ignore the choices of the girls that are given no other option outside of marriage. In other words, Senator Yerima and his supporters, including the Muslim Rights Concern organization, are basically hypocritical pedophiles who hide behind religious doctrine to rape children and carry out perverted acts without having to face prosecution.
Other acts of rebellion have come directly from the young brides and brides-to-be. In India, a 14-year-old girl betrothed by her parents to marry a man ten years older than her, rebelled against the traditional arrangement and sought the help of her teacher, Linkan Subuddhi (Bhalla, 2013).28 The man, who now remains on the run, attacked and brutally beat Subuddhi on September 19, 2013. The child remains in intensive care, while the child’s mother has been detained by the police. Other instances of individual defiance include the remarkable story of 10-year-old Yemeni Nujood Ali, who, in February of 2008, was able to successfully divorce her 30-year-old husband with the help of human rights lawyer, Shada Nasser (Tavanna).29 Nujood was married off so that her family could escape the economic burden of raising her, and found herself in a situation where she was continually raped and beaten from the onset of the marriage. She eventually made the decision to flee, taking a taxi to a courthouse where she waited to speak with a judge, who proved to be compassionate. In July of 2013, another Yemeni, Nada Al-Ahdal, ran away from home to live with her uncle in order to escape the fate of a child bride. Nada released a Youtube video that went viral (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nq_SEjJh3KQ) where she explained her reasons for leaving, questioned societal customs, and spoke out on behalf of other girls. In the video she asks, “What about the innocence of childhood? What have the children done wrong? Why do you marry them off like that? I would have no life, no education. Don’t they have compassion?”
Scapegoat — When East Meets West
Due to the fact that child marriage is so prevalent in the East and developing nations – being carried out in the open – and is sensationalized in the Western press, the West and developed nations often try to use the nations of the developing world as a scapegoat. Those nations are demonized, as Western nations and their citizens embrace the fallacy that, in comparison, they are more moral, just, and protective of children. However, this perception is false. The fact is that perversion and pedophilia run just as rampant in the West. Sure, it is hidden from plain sight, not discussed in polite conversation, and a man cannot technically purchase a child bride and openly live with her as his wife; but that does not mean this man is not guilty of objectifying young girls in the same manner as he would adult woman, viewing child pornography, having a sexual relationship with a teenage girl, hiring a child prostitute, or even traveling abroad to dicktimize a child forced to work in human trafficking. In fact, the overwhelming majority of child pornography is created in the West, and Westerners flock to “exotic” locales — Brazil, Thailand, Kenya– on sexual tourism “missions” where they engage in sex with underage girls.
Dickmatization in the West & Developed World
Under the Western veil of sexual liberation, women and girls in the West continue to be objectified and sexually exploited. Even in music and the film industry, a woman’s worth and marketability is tied to her physical appearance, hypersexuality, and her willingness to allow nudity and skimpy clothing to mask talent. One may argue that adult women make a choice to engage in this behavior, however, these decisions can be influenced by a subconscious that is guided by constant images of sexual exploitation; so much so that they seem like acceptable societal norms.
Imagery & Child Exploitation
Advertisements, beauty pageants, and the advent of Pseudo-Reality shows such as Little Miss Sunshine or Honey Boo Boo, which showcases a young, obese, and uncouth pageant star, may all be used as examples of child exploitation – where young girls are used to produce adult and sexualized images. The child beauty pageant draws the most criticism, as it involves the literal dressing-up of little girls to appear as adult women, complete with the use of props to fulfill patriarchal notions of what is deemed attractive (wigs and hair extensions, fake eyelashes, spray tans, fake teeth, caked-on makeup, and suggestive/mature outfits), judging them on their physical appearance, and inadvertently teaching them that physical beauty is the most important factor when determining their worth. In August 2013, the French Senate made the first meaningful act of any government to deal with this issue by voting to place a ban on all child beauty pageants, which constitutes those where the pageant competitors are under the age of 16. Any adult who tries to enter a child in such a contest faces up to two years in prison and a 30,000-Euro fine ($40K US) (International News).30 A parliamentary report entitled ” Against Hypersexualization: A New Fight For Equality,” prompted the amendment, and also encouraged a ban on adult-style clothing for children, including padded bras, and of course those high-heeled shoes (International News). 30 The controversy surrounding this issue of hypersexualization of young girls in media and pageantry peaked after a December 2010 French Vogue photo editorial featuring the images of 10-year-old Thylane Loubry Blondeau made up to appear like an adult sex kitten. Of course, this problem is not tied only to the French media – the same can be said globally, including here in the U.S.
Global Pedophilia & Western Sex Tourists
Sex trafficking of children is often viewed as a problem that primarily affects the developing world, and those involved in discourse often dismiss the role of those from the West and developed nations in perpetuating this epidemic. Sex tourists from these developed nations are the primary clientele for child sex workers globally. Essentially, what is occurring is that pedophiles from developed nations fly to impoverished/developing countries and carry out commercial sexual acts with children, who are placed into sex work by parents who often claim financial hardship. This phenomenon is actually termed Child Sex Tourism (CST). Millions of children each year are exploited by Child Sex Tourism, and many of the pedophiles engaged in this activity are considered “Situational abusers.” These are the tourists who do not intentionally travel to seek sex with a child, but readily take advantage of children sexually once they are in a country; however, there are also “Preferential child sex abusers” who are pedophiles traveling with the explicit purpose of exploiting children. These are the pedophiles that flock to places like Thailand, the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic, Africa, Kenya, South America, Brazil; all nations that have high rates of sex trafficking.
At the base of the problem of global sex trafficking, particularly that which involves minors, is that, like any other commodity, supply has been created to meet demand. The men, including those who travel a great distance, who buy sexual services and consumer goods such as videos and internet pornography, create the demand that fuels the commercial sexual exploitation and enslavement of children worldwide.
A Statistical Overview of the Situation:
· The trafficking of children appears to be increasing globally. During the period of 2007-2010 27% were children, compared to 20% during the 2003-2006 period (UNODC, 2012)31
· Worldwide, almost 20% of all trafficking victims are children. However, in some parts of Africa and the Mekong region, children are the majority (up to 100% in parts of West Africa). (UNODC, 2013)32
· 50% of transnational victims are minors (US Department of State) 33
· In one year’s time a child prostitute would service over 2,000 men on average (Robinson, 1997) 34.
· It is estimated that 76 percent of transactions for sex with underage girls start on the Internet (UNODC) 31
· 2 million children are subjected to prostitution in the global commercial sex trade (UNICEF, 2005 Children Out of Sight)35
· In Vietnam: A 2010 study by UNICEF and the Ministry of Invalids and Social Affairs found that approximately 15% of all female sex workers were under 18 years of age. (UNICEF Maltreatment Report)36
· In Thailand: A 2005 study by ILO IPEC found that 19.8% of children and young women in prostitution reported that their first sexual experience was rape. UNICEF Maltreatment Report) 36
· In Cambodia: A 2009 study by ECPAT Cambodia found that, according to data collected from NGOs across the country, 37% of victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation were children. UNICEF Maltreatment Report) 36
Sex Trafficking & Children in the U.S.
In the United States, child prostitutes work in the shadows, are repeatedly dickmatized and physically abused, often come from broken homes, often succumb to drug addiction, and have no or few family ties. These young girls are dickmatized by men in two critical ways: by their pimps who essentially enslave them and force them to perform sex acts, and by their clients – the men who pay for sex with underage girls. Even major sporting events such as the Super Bowl and the NCAA Final Four attract tens of thousands of visitors with money who want to party, and pimps with prostitutes ready to cash in. Ron Hosko, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division explains the following: “We have had children recovered from each of those events, multiple children from each of those events in the past” (Johns & Cohens CNN 2013). 37
The following describes the epidemic of child prostitution:
· $32 billion – Total yearly profits, in U.S. dollars, generated by the human trafficking industry (International Labor Office) 38
· The underlying demographics of the child victims of the prostitution industry are young girls around 13 to 16 years old with few or no family ties (Johns & Cohens CNN, 2013) 37
· 100,000 – 300,000 – Number of prostituted children in the U.S. (ECPAT International)39
· 244,000 – Number of American children and youth estimated to be at risk of child sexual exploitation, including commercial sexual exploitation, in 2000. (Estes, 2001)40
· 98.8 – Percent of suspected or confirmed child victims of domestic sex trafficking taken in by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) nationwide from 2004 to 2010 who were classified as Endangered Runaways. (National Center)41
· 40-70 – Percent of street youth who engage, at least occasionally, in prostitution to meet their basic needs. (Estes & Wein, 2001)42
The Matter of Pornography
The United States, and particularly California, is the epicenter of the pornography industry, and this includes child pornography. In fact, an entire pornographic category has been created for those with pedophile tendencies. Labeled “Barely Legal,” the genre fulfills male fantasies of engaging in sex acts with teenagers. Then there are the more explicit images of actual children which are distributed worldwide. The problem is prevalent in the U.S., just as much as it is in developing countries. According to July 2013 reports by Britian’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), the sexual abuse of children in developing countries is increasing with the use of live-streamed Internet services such as Skype (Rawstory, 2013).43 A more recent report, in October 2013, best exemplifies the nature of child pornography here in the U.S. The report involved the arrest of an eastern Tennessee couple whorented out their daughters – ages 5 to 16 – to pornographers (Kaufman, 2013)44, and one of the girls was driven to South Carolina in order to make a pornographic film. Again, whether abroad or done domestically, the dickmatization of children in pornographic films involves the forced or coerced performance of on-screen sexual acts, and having their parents, pimp, etc. paid for the one-time service.
What About Teen Pregnancy
There are a number of underage girls who are involved in what they believe to be “consenting” relationships with adult men, and a number of them result in pregnancy. When this occurs, it is often the young, teenaged mother who bares the bulk of ridicule from society. In fact, discourse on teenage pregnancy rarely ever makes mention of the adult men who are involved with these young girls. In order to combat this problem of teenage pregnancy through relationships with adult men, public health specialists and child welfare workers advocate for the development of policies, such as mandatory reporting and statutory rape laws (Harner, 2005).45
The overwhelming and historical evidence is there: children, particularly girls, are brutally dickmatized, whether physically or mentally, by a global culture of pedophilia, rape, and child exploitation that is embedded in patriarchal systems and upheld by religion, inactive governments, societal indifference, and poor economic policies. Those forced into child marriage live within a perpetual cycle of poverty, low education, illiteracy, high infant mortality and pregnancy complications, domestic violence, and poor health, which hinders the economic and social development of their societies and countries. Those who are explicated by human trafficking and pornography are also at risk for negative health and wellness outcomes, including a host of sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, also high infant mortality and pregnancy complications, infertility, domestic violence, suicide, a cycle of drug abuse and complications, low education, and no socioeconomic mobility. On this topic of the exploitation of girls, one must act and speak up against this culture of dickmatization, using their own personal moral compass which does not simply rely on accepted societal norms or religious doctrine. In short, if your religion/beliefs/community accepts and allows child brides, child prostitutes, and the dissemination of children in “adult” and suggestive images, then it is time for a change of faith, tradition, and social policy.
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