I want you to take a journey with me, it will be brief and it wonâ€™t cost you a penny. All you have to do is close your eyes and imagine.
Imagine: Picture yourself a child, in a poor country, from a poor family â€¦ you sleep on a mat on the floor, eat maybe once a day â€¦ there are too many mouths to feed â€¦ too many bodies in too small a space â€¦ chaos, filth, hunger, pain, despair â€“ these are your daily companions â€¦ the family needs to reduce the number of hungry mouths or bring in extra money.
Your parents decide to take desperate action. They owe money and canâ€™t feed the rest of the family. Older siblings who can find work do, but what to do with you, the young one?
Their desperate act? The act designed to help solve their financial troubles? They â€œsellâ€ you to a flesh merchant who will keep you locked in a small, dirty room, fed enough to not starve. Your job? To â€œserviceâ€ your clients. To sell your young body for the sexual pleasure of the adult men who pay high dollar for young flesh.
Your body suffers injuries from the sexual abuse. You are given drugs to dull the pain and to keep you quiet and compliant. This is the way you live for the next several years. Never having clothes except those that your â€œownerâ€ puts on you in order to please a client. The only pleasures you have are those that come from the hands of clients â€“ maybe they let you watch a little TV, maybe they give you a special treat. But always, always there is a price, and you pay it on your back.
Eventually, the conditions become too much. Your body, already frail, begins to shut down. Years of abuse and drugs take their toll. Your immune system is nonexistent. You get sick and are no longer able to provide for the clients so you are unceremoniously shoved onto the streets.
There, you have no choice but to continue in the only thing you know â€“ peddling your flesh to feed your starving belly and clothe your naked body.
What will end this miserable life? What death will greet you? Perhaps an overdose, maybe an illness. Or something more violent?
When times are tough in our country, you get another job, seek public assistance, or any number of other things. In some countries, you sell a child into slavery â€“ sexual slavery.
Thatâ€™s not the only way that children fall into prostitution. No, sometimes they are kidnapped, sometimes they have run away and are coerced into it â€“ but no matter how they got there, they are there â€“ their bodies being sold for the sexual gratification of paying â€œcustomersâ€. The risks of disease and the ravages of drug addiction are high. There is no retirement plan, there are no health benefits, this is not a â€œjobâ€ â€“ for these kids, this is their life, their only life.
And itâ€™s disgusting.
When I began researching for this piece, I was stunned to discover this was still a problem. In my innocence, I had believed child prostitution to be an â€œoldâ€ problem, I believed it was history. How wrong I was.
There is a dark side to the tourism industry, itâ€™s called sexual tourism â€“ â€œclientsâ€ coming from other countries (about 25% from the US) in order to indulge in their pedophile tendencies and engage in sex with children, some younger than 10.
They go to Latin America, Asia and Africa, frequenting the poorer places, in search of those â€œprofessionalsâ€ whose services are for sale. These predators claim they shouldnâ€™t be prosecuted because they are using the services of a â€œprofessionalâ€, yet these are still children, servicing two, three or more â€œcustomersâ€ a night and suffering lasting physical damage because of it.
This is nothing new and it has brought together seemingly opposing factions as Chuck Colson and Gloria Steinem joined forces in 2000 to support legislation against human trafficking. Back to the days of Victorian England, there are reports of child prostitution one of which caused the age of consent to be raised from 13 to 16.
In Asia alone, estimates are that over one million young boys and girls are engaged in prostitution.
Even with the legal loopholes slowly closing, increased arrests and prosecution of the offenders, it is still possible to purchase the â€œservicesâ€ of a child. There are those who still do it, there are those who go out into this world seeking sexual gratification from the body of a child. That they are paying for â€œprofessionalâ€ services does not make it any less sick, it does not make it any less wrong.
Until recently, the US had a difficult time prosecuting these offenders because the law stated they had to travel with the â€œintentâ€ of molesting children. The Protect Act of 2003 changed that and made the act itself the crime and increasing penalties, making arrest and prosecution easier.
The problem, the travesty exists and persists. The question, however, is this: What can be done to stop it? What can we do to curb the prostitution of young flesh?
There will always and forever be those sick individuals who seek sexual gratification from children. Itâ€™s disgusting, and to most people, completely unthinkable. But in order to fight this, we have to accept that there are those who desire it, will travel to obtain it, and will pay for it.
There are organizations out there fighting this practice. They are fighting for stricter laws, heavier penalties, better communication between countries â€“ they are fighting for these childrenâ€™s very lives.
The first step in making change is awareness. Now that you are aware, the question is, what are you going to do?
Normally, I fill this type of post with links right in the text, clickable as you read. This time, I chose to save them for last. I wanted to offer a resource â€“ an all-in-one spot to obtain information on several groups who are taking action, and how to be a part of the solution.
For information on sexual tourism, child prostitution and the things being done to fight it, let your fingers do the walking. I was honestly disgusted by how prevalent child prostitution really is, and the wealth of information, while helpful, was disturbing. These sites include information on the problem, as well as ways to be part of the solution.