The Pursuit of Pseudo Peace (Part 3): The Sordid Business of Child Prostitution


Prof Hoosen Vawda – TRANSCEND Media Service

This publication is unsuitable for minors in view of the contents.  Parental guidance is advised.

“A Child Is Innocent and Its Body Is Sacred–Do Not Abuse It nor Exploit It”[1]

Children of the Brothel [2] World Vision Photos by Jon Warren[3]

4 Nov 2022 – This Part 3 in the series of publications on prostitution, highlights the abhorrent sale of the child’s body for the  sexual gratification of adults, pedophiles and other humanoids, usually males, of an aberrant sexual orientation and perversion. Child prostitution has been defined by the United Nations as “the act of engaging or offering the services of a child to perform sexual acts for money or other consideration with that person or any other person”.[4] By 1990, international awareness of the commercial sexual exploitation and the sale of children had grown to such a level that the United Nations Commission on Human Rights decided to appoint a Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.  A list of the five countries with the highest rates of child prostitution was compiled.

In Sri Lanka the statistics of crimes against children increased by 64% in 2012 , compared to the previous year. “According to Unicef and ILO (International Labour Organisation) there are 40,000 child prostitutes in Sri Lanka and 6.4% of the country’s child population gets pregnant,” said United National Party MP Rosy Senanayake[5].  Although girls are sexually exploited both in the sex industry and by sex tourists, many NGOs believe that it is boys who face greater abuse by foreign sex offenders, NGO ECPACT[6] (Ending Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking) said.  In Sri Lanka, the plantation sector has been identified as a notorious area for trafficking of children into the worst forms of child labour, particularly child domestic work and commercial sexual exploitation, according to ILO. The National Child Protection Authority issued a warning in 2011 of an increase in child sexual exploitation, related to the rapid growth of tourism.

Child prostitution in Thailand involved 800,000 children under the age of sixteen in 2004. According to ECPACT, due to the hidden nature of child sexual abuse reliable figures are hard to compile and cases difficult to document. Available figures estimate that currently some 30,000 to 40,000 children, not including foreign children, are exploited as prostitutes. Sexual exploitation of children in Thailand, as in many other countries, is tremendously influenced by tourism. “In Pattaya, if there were fewer foreign people coming in to buy sex, then the problem would be easier to manage,” Palissorn Noja,[7] who runs Pattaya’s Anti-Human Trafficking and Child Abuse Centre, told the Huffington Post. “They paedophiles have an entire worldwide network of people looking for children through human trafficking and sex tourism makes it harder to stop.”  The photographic documentary, “Underage” by photographer Ohm Phanphiroj [8]shows the life of thousands of underage male prostitutes in Thailand. “The film aims at exposing the rotten problem about sexual exploitation against minors and mistreatment towards children,” the photographer said in a statement.

In Brazil, sex trafficking is an appalling truth to many young people, where there are half-a-million child sex workers, according to the National Forum for the Prevention of Child Labour.

Children as young as 12 are selling themselves for sex for as little as 80p in Brazil, according to an investigation by Sky News.  The shocking revelation comes as international footballers join a campaign warning fans travelling to Brazil for the World Cup to exploit children. According to the documentary “Brazil- Children for sale”, hundreds of children who live in the slums leave their homes in search of tourists, who are “eager for easy and cheap bodies”, to earn money and escape poverty.   Unemployment and poverty is extremely high in Brazil and children are sometimes encouraged by their parents to start prostituting.

In the United States, according to Crimes Against Children research Centre (CCRC), the numbers of juvenile prostitutes range from 1,400 to 2.4 million, although most fall between 300,000 and 600,000. 16 children as young as 13 were rescued from the sex trade in a law enforcement operation that targeted suspected pimps who brought the victims to New Jersey for Super Bowl weekend, in February 2014. “Prostituted children remain the orphans of America’s justice system. They are either ignored or, when they do come in contact with law enforcement, harassed, arrested, and incarcerated while the adults who exploit them – the pimp and their customers, largely escape punishment,” said Julian Sher[9], author of the book Somebody’s Daughter: The Hidden Story of America’s Prostituted Children and the Battle to Save Them.

In Canada, Inuit babies and children are being sold by their families and are “prostituted out by a parent, family member or domestic partner”, according to a recent report by Canadian Department of Justice.  The sexual exploitation of children is a deeply–rooted reality in too many Canadian homes, families and communities, according to a 2011 report by a Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights.  The committee, which started the investigation in 2009, heard that in one year there were almost 9,000 reported sexual assaults against children, many of whom belong to the First Nations communities, in Canada. The overwhelming majority of sexual abuse goes unreported.  Social service organisations have estimated the number of trafficked Canadians to be as high as 16,000 a year, but the number of children trafficked within Canada from place to place remains uncertain due to the clandestine nature of the activity, Unicef Canada said in a statement in 2009.

In Third World countries, the rampant, high level corruption, with involvement of law enforcement officers, in supporting prostitution cartels make it difficult to compile meaningful statistics on child prostitution.  However, In Bangladesh, child prostitutes are known to take the drug Oradexon, an over-the-counter steroid, usually used by farmers to fatten cattle, to make child prostitutes look larger and older. Charities say that 90% of prostitutes in the country’s legalized brothels use the drug.[10]

Prostitution of children dates to antiquity. Prepubescent boys were commonly prostituted in brothels in ancient Greece and Rome.[11] According to Ronald Barri Flowers[12], the “most beautiful and highest born Egyptian maidens were forced into prostitution… and they continued as prostitutes until their first menstruation.” Poor Chinese and Indian children were commonly sold by their parents into prostitution.[13] Parents in India sometimes dedicated their female children to the Hindu temples, where they became “Devadasis”[14]. Traditionally a high status in society, the devadasis were originally tasked with maintaining and cleaning the temples of the Hindu deity, to which they were assigned, usually the goddess Renuka and learning skills such as music and dancing. However, as the system evolved, their roles became that of a temple prostitutes, and the girls, who were “dedicated” before puberty, were required to prostitute themselves to upper-class men, including trample priests.[15] The practice has since been outlawed but still exists, in the rural villages in India.[16]

In Europe, child prostitution flourished until the late 1800s;[17] minors accounted for 50% of individuals involved in prostitution in Paris.[18] A scandal in 19th century England, caused the government there to raise the age of consent.[19] In July 1885, William Thomas Stead, editor of The Pall Mall Gazette, published “The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon”, four articles describing an extensive underground sex trafficking ring that reportedly sold children to adults. Stead’s reports focused on a 13-year-old girl, Eliza Armstrong[20], who was sold for £5 (the equivalent of around £500 in 2012), then taken to a midwife to have her virginity verified. The age of consent was raised from 13 to 16 within a week of publication.[21] During this period, the term white slavery came to be used throughout Europe and the United States to describe prostituted children.[22]

Since the middle of the 19th century, efforts by the Social Purity movement[23], led by early feminists such as Josephine Butler [24]and others, sought to improve the treatment of women and children in Victorian society. The social purity movement began in the late 19th century along with other moral reform movements, such as abolitionism and the temperance movement. Rooted in Christian morality, the movement aimed to preserve feminine virtue and purity by protecting young women and girls from prostitution, contraception, abortions, and male sexual predators. The movement scored a triumph when the Contagious Diseases Acts were repealed under pressure due to their double standard nature and ultimate ineffectiveness.

At the same time, the campaign had also turned towards the problem of prostitution, and with male power over women. By the end of the 1870s, this had become particularly focused on fears that British women were being lured, or abducted, to brothels on the Continent, especially since this was happening to girls barely past the age of consent. Although the age was raised to 13, when amendments to the Offences against the Person Act 1861 were made in 1875, the movement sought to further raise this to at least 16, but Parliament was reluctant to make this change.  However, a Criminal Law Amendment Bill [25]to change this was introduced in 1881. While it passed the House of Lords easily in 1883 after a two-year Select committee study, it stalled twice in the House of Commons. Then in 1885, it was reintroduced for a third time, but again it was threatened to be set aside ultimately because of a political crisis and the upcoming general election that year.

Parliament recessed for the Whit Week bank holiday on 22 May, and upon the following day Benjamin Scott, anti-vice campaigner and the Chamberlain of the City of London[26], went to see W. T. Stead, editor of the Pall Mall Gazette. Stead was a pioneer of modern investigative journalism, with a flair for the sensational. He was a supporter of the Social Purity movement.

Scott told stories of sexually exploited children to Stead, who agreed to work for popular support. Stead set up a “Special and Secret Committee of Inquiry” to investigate child prostitution, which included Josephine Butler, as well as representatives of the London Committee for the Suppression of the Traffic in British Girls for the Purposes of Continental Prostitution (of which Scott was the chairman) and the Salvation Army. As part of the investigation, two women, an employee of the Pall Mall Gazette and a girl from the Salvation Army, posed as prostitutes and infiltrated brothels, leaving before they were forced to render sexual services. Butler spent ten days walking the streets of London with her son Georgie, posing as a brothel-keeper and a procurer, respectively; together they spent a total of £100 buying children in high-class brothels. Stead, in turn, also spoke to a former director of criminal investigation at Scotland Yard to get first-hand information; he later cast his net wide to include active and retired brothel keepers, pimps, procurers, prostitutes, rescue workers and jail chaplains.  Stead felt that he needed something more to make his point: he decided to purchase a girl to show that he could do it under the nose of the law. And an interesting anecdote of investigative journalism developed in Britain, which was to result in widespread repercussions, for the morally degraded Victorian society, as well as the law of the Crown.  This was the episode of the “Five Pound Virgin.”

Statue of a Young 19thcentury Prostituted Child
The White Slave by Abastenia St. Leger Eberle (1878–1942)

With the help of Josephine Butler and Bramwell Booth of the Salvation Army, Stead got in touch with Rebecca Jarrett, a reformed prostitute and brothel-keeper who was staying with Mrs Butler in Winchester as an assistant. Although Mrs Butler had no problem with Rebecca’s meeting Stead, she did not know Stead’s reason for doing so.  Stead prevailed upon Jarrett to help him to show that a 13-year-old girl could be bought from her parents and transported to the Continent. Despite her reluctance about returning to her old brothel contacts for help, Jarrett agreed to help.   Rebecca Jarrett met an old associate, a procuress called Nancy Broughton. Through her Jarrett learned of a 13-year-old named Eliza Armstrong, whose alcoholic mother Elizabeth needed money. She arranged for Jarrett to meet Mrs Armstrong, who lived in the Lisson Grove area of West London, and although Rebecca told the mother the girl was to serve as a maid to an old gentleman, she believed Mrs Armstrong understood that she was selling her daughter into prostitution. The mother agreed to sell her daughter for a total of £5 (equivalent to £574.57 in 2021). On 3rd June, the bargain was made.  On the same day, Jarrett then took Eliza to a midwife and abortionist named Louise Mourez, who examined her and attested to her virginity and sold Jarrett a bottle of chloroform. Then Eliza was taken to a brothel and lightly drugged to await the arrival of her purchaser, who was Stead. Stead, anxious to play the part of libertine almost in full, drank a whole bottle of champagne, although he was a teetotaler. He entered Eliza’s room and waited for her to awaken from her stupor. When she came to, Eliza screamed. Stead quickly left the room, letting the scream imply he had “had his way” with her. Eliza was quickly handed over to Bramwell Booth, who spirited her to France, where she was taken care of by a Salvationist family.  In the meantime, Stead wrote his story and was probably the first investigative journalist in history.

On Saturday, 4th July 1885, a “frank warning” was issued in the Pall Mall Gazette: “All those who are squeamish, and all those who are prudish, and all those who would prefer to live in a fool’s paradise of imaginary innocence and purity, selfishly oblivious to the horrible realities which torment those whose lives are passed in the London inferno, will do well not to read the Pall Mall Gazette of Monday and the three following days”.[27] The public’s appetite whetted sufficiently in anticipation, on Monday 6 July, Stead published the first instalments of The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon.

The first instalment taking up six whole pages, Stead attacked vice with eye-catching subheadings: “The Violation of Virgins”, “The Confessions of a Brothel-Keeper”, “How Girls Were Bought and Ruined”. He argued that while consensual adult behavior was a matter of private morality and not a law enforcement issue, issues rife in London existed that did require legislative prohibition, listing five main areas where the law should intervene:[2]

  1. The sale and purchase and violation of children.
  2. The procuration of virgins.
  3. The entrapping and ruin of women.
  4. The international slave trade in girls.
  5. Atrocities, brutalities, and unnatural crimes.

The theme of “Maiden Tribute” was child prostitution, the abduction, procurement and sale of young English virgins to Continental “pleasure palaces”. Stead took his readers to the labyrinthine streets of London (intentionally recalling the Greek myth) to its darker side, exposing the flesh trade while exposing the corruption of those officials who not only turned a blind eye but also condoned such abuse. Stead acknowledged that his articles described the situation of a small minority of London’s prostitutes, agreeing that most “have not come there by the road of organized rape”, and that his focus was child victims who were “regularly procured; bought…, or enticed under various promises into the fatal chamber from which they are never allowed to emerge until they have lost what woman ought to value more than life”.[2] In particular, he drew a distinction between sexual immorality and sexual criminality, and criticized those members of Parliament who were responsible for the Bill’s impending “extinction in the House of Commons” and hinted that they might have personal reasons to block any changes in the law. The disclosure began properly in the 6th July publication, in which Stead reveals that he had asked if genuine maiden virgins could be procured, and being told it was so, asked whether such girls were willing and consensual, or aware of the intentions planned for them:[28]

“But,” I continued, “are these maids willing or unwilling parties to the transaction–that is, are they really maiden, not merely in being each a virgo intacta in the physical sense, but as being chaste girls who are not consenting parties to their seduction?” He looked surprised at my question, and then replied emphatically: “Of course they are rarely willing, and as a rule they do not know what they are coming for.” “But,” I said in amazement, “then do you mean to tell me that in very truth actual rapes, in the legal sense of the word, are constantly being perpetrated in London on unwilling virgins, purveyed and procured to rich men at so much a head by keepers of brothels?” “Certainly,” said he, “there is not a doubt of it.” “Why, “I exclaimed, “the very thought is enough to raise hell.” “It is true,” he said; “and although it ought to raise hell, it does not even raise the neighbours.” “But do the girls cry out?” “Of course they do. But what avails screaming in a quiet bedroom? Remember, the utmost limit of howling or excessively violent screaming, such as a man or woman would make if actual murder was being attempted, is only two minutes, and the limit of screaming of any kind is only five… But suppose the screams continue and you get uneasy, you begin to think whether you should not do something? Before you have made up your mind and got dressed the screams cease, and you think you were a fool for your pains… Once a girl gets into such a house she is almost helpless, and may be ravished with comparative safety.”[29]

Stead commented that “Children of twelve and thirteen cannot offer any serious resistance. They only dimly comprehend what it all means. Their mothers sometimes consent to their seduction for the sake of the price paid by their seducer. The child goes to the introducing house as a sheep to the shambles. Once there, she is compelled to go through with it. No matter how brutal the man may be, she cannot escape”. A madam confirmed the story for him, stating of one girl that she was rendered unconscious beforehand, and then coercively given the choice to continue or be homeless afterwards.[30]

The last section of the first instalment bore special mention: under the subheading “A Child of Thirteen bought for £5” Stead related the story of Eliza, a purchased victim, whose name he changed to “Lily”. Although he vouched “for the absolute accuracy of every fact in the narrative”, Stead changed a number of details, and omitted the fact that “Lily’s” purchaser was none other than himself. Describing himself as an “investigator” rather than an “informer”, and having also promised not to use information obtained against those who provided it, he stated that he would disclose actual names and identifying details only to the two UK Archbishops, one M.P., two members of the House of Lords active in criminal legislation or child protection, and a past director of the CID.  However, high level pressure to silence Stead and subsequent investigations, resulted in Stead being imprisoned for three months on a charge of procurement.  Stead eventually died in the Titanic Disaster in 1912[31].

World Vision runs a Child-Friendly Space staffed by Ms Dipshikha Roy, 35. Who  listens with compassion to sex workers, with their children born, at the brothel. Their children are often left unattended at the busy brothel.[32]

Kari Costanza accompanied by Photographer Jon Warren compiled an excellent  report for World Vision in Bangladesh.  They narrate the story of a child, Tumpa, the names have been changed, born to a prostitute. Tumpa does not know who her father is. She was just seven months along in her mother’s womb when he slithered out of her life. Tumpa’s mother is a prostitute. Her father was a client. He made promises to Tumpa’s mother that he did not keep. Now the 3-year-old lives with her mother in a bustling brothel in Jessore, Bangladesh.  A child’s life in a brothel is unimaginable. Tumpa and her mother live with a madam in a giant cement condominium with rooms for sleeping and rooms for sex, sometimes one room serving both purposes. In this place, dozens of women sleep, wake, eat, and conduct soul-scarring business with a steady stream of men as their children look on.  In the open communal space, where brothel workers primp for the next client or consume a hurried lunch of rice and vegetables, Tumpa and the other children fight boredom amid the squalor, playing near stoves leaping with flames, crawling on floors dirty with cigarette butts and empty potato chip wrappers, maybe tossing a rubber ball until a madam screams at them to stop.  The brothel is on Hat Khola Street. In Bengali, hat khola means “the marketplace,” and the street is a vast marketplace indeed. You can buy everything, balls, sugar, tea, biscuits, clothing, screwdrivers, pliers, door hinges, nails.  At the brothel, you can buy people, like Tumpa’s mother.

But just across Hat Khola Street, there is a heavenly respite. World Vision runs a Child-Friendly Space staffed by Dipshikha Roy, 35. When Tumpa’s mother, Moyna, brings her over each day, the little girl crawls right into Dipshikha’s arms. “Tumpa is so happy here,” Moyna says. “She can play with the other girls.” According to Moyna, her mother

Dipshikha begins each day by making sure the children’s uniforms are correctly buttoned, shirts properly tucked, and shoes firmly tied. “We start our session by singing the national anthem,” which the children perform with unbridled joy, Dipshikha says. “How are your moms?” she asks the children gathered around her in a circle. “Oh, they are still in bed,” says one little boy.  Sojib, whose mother, Jolly, works at the brothel, arrives. “Have you had breakfast? Did you brush your teeth?” Dipshikha asks him. She carefully buttons his orange shirt and helps him climb into his blue shorts, gently smoothing his black hair. Tumpa, who arrived early, stumbles into a table and begins to cry. Dipshikha reaches out to provide instant comfort and protect children from trafficking, child labour, and sexual exploitation  There is constant activity in the Child-Friendly Space, alive with color, sound, and life. “First we count, then we learn letters,” says Dipshikha. “We teach through games. We use posters to teach about fruits and vegetables. We’re now learning to count from 1 to 20.”  After the children’s hot lunch, they are supposed to rest. “It’s actually not rest, it’s running,” she says, laughing.

Every evening, the children return to the brothel and Dipshikha goes home to her daughter, Chitra, 8. Dipshikha’s husband, Binoy, died five years ago, she says, of a hole in his heart. In a sense, Dipshikha now has a hole in her heart as well. “I miss him,” she says.  Chitra, as well as the nine boys and three girls at the Child-Friendly Space, help fill that hole. Sex worker Jolly loves it when her son, Sojib, goes to the Child-Friendly Space. “I like that he learns something,” she says. “He’s learning the alphabet and rhymes. When he doesn’t go, he spends his day alone.”

Dipshikha is a friend to the women, loving society’s rejects, who work at the brothel, such as Tumpa’s mother, Moyna.  “I am happy because World Vision keeps my child all day,” Moyna says. “Dipshikha is a wonderful lady. She treats these children like they are her own.”  Moyna, 30, has been at the brothel for five years. She is from Barisal, east of Jessore on the wide Bangladesh delta plain. She was tricked by a friend into joining the brothel, a common occurrence.  “My friend had a job for me, a housecleaning job. I would be able to send money home,” Moyna says, closing her teal-painted eyelids for a moment. “She brought me to the brothel and said, ‘You stay here.’ My friend never came back. I never got a housecleaning job.”

Moyna hates being a sex worker and dreams of becoming a cook. “If I can get a source where I can make money, then I would like to leave this place,” she says. “I want a different life.” Gazing out the window at a wedding ceremony on the street below, a raucous event with loud horns playing, Moyna says she will never marry.  “The workers think they have no future. They don’t think they have a chance. But their children have a future,” says Provash Chandra Biswas, 48, the director for World Vision’s Bangladesh Child Protection Program. A trained attorney, Provash has been with World Vision for two decades, working with those whom society has rejected.  “Most of the children of sex workers are different than normal children. They have stress.” Provash says the madams of the brothel are extremely powerful and that they target the children. “The madam who is running the business, [her] target is the girl child,” he says. “Most of the sex workers, they do not want to bring their children into the profession. But sometimes they have to do that because there are no opportunities.” It all becomes more frightful at night, says Provash. “You see a lot of criminals. They plan crimes in the brothel. Smugglers also use the brothels.” Sex workers become prisoners. “If they come out, they face stigma,” says Provash. “What options do they have?”  When Provash visits the brothel to check on the sex workers, he pays keen attention to the children. “They see everything,” he says. “Sometimes they sleep under the beds. The rooms are very small. My observation: Most of the children of sex workers are different than normal children. They have stress.”

Child-Friendly Spaces are part of a comprehensive plan World Vision has implemented in Bangladesh dedicated to protecting the vulnerable, prevent child trafficking, protect those who might be harmed, and restore those who have suffered. The plan focuses on awareness, advocacy and networking, victim support, and income-generating activities.  World Vision staff meet monthly in Jessore with community members to ensure they are monitoring children. Child protection “point people” are trained to report missing children immediately, setting in motion an Amber Alert-type response.  Staff members work on the border between India and Bangladesh to plug the holes through which people are trafficked, educating law enforcement officers and journalists to recognize what trafficking looks like and to tell the story.  Representatives from World Vision sit on committees at the highest levels of government and engage with the media, developing dramas for television about trafficking.  Through partner organizations, World Vision supports victims with medicine, clothing, testing for disease, and counseling. And staff train and equip vulnerable families in income-generating activities, such as sewing and raising poultry. Increasing a family’s income lessens the likelihood that the children will be sold.  “In 19 years with World Vision, this is my hardest job,” says Provash. “We do not have any weekends. We do not have any holidays. This is a great challenge for us. ”But it’s a worthwhile challenge for this team of dedicated servants, fighting to stop trafficking, helping restore victims, and protecting children like Tumpa by creating safe, joyful spaces where they can play, learn, and be loved.

The Children of the Brothel. What Future do they have? [33]

The Bottom Line, is that the topic prostitution is “nefariously sacred” and even in the 21st century, cannot be discussed in polite circles, The entity of child prostitution is even more sacred in the minds of the miscreants, which include corrupt politicians, religious leaders, celebrities, law enforcement officers, drug cartels, mafia, government officials to cover up the ills of sex tourism and even elders in a community.  Furthermore, the issue of proscribing and punishing child exploitation triggers intense emotions. While there is general consensus that child sexual exploitation, whether through the Internet, forced prostitution, the international or domestic trafficking of children for sex, or molestation, is on the rise, observers in the United States and elsewhere find little common ground on the questions of how serious such conduct is, or what, if anything, must be done to address it.[34]  Investigative journalist Julian Sher states that widespread stereotypes about the prostitution of children continued into the 1990s, when the first organized opposition arose and police officers began working to dispel common misconceptions.[35] Criminologist Roger Matthews writes that concerns over paedophilia and child sexual abuse, as well as shifting perceptions of youth, led the public to see a sharp difference between prostitution of children and adult prostitution. While the latter is generally frowned upon, the former is seen as intolerable. Additionally, he states, children are increasingly viewed as “innocent” and “pure” and their prostitution as paramount to slavery.[36] Through the shift in attitude, the public began to see minors involved in the sex trade as victims rather than as perpetrators of a crime, needing rehabilitation rather than punishment.[37]

Though campaigns against prostitution of children originated in the 1800s,[38] the first mass protests against the practice occurred in the 1990s in the United States, led largely by ECPAT (End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism). The group, which historian Junius P. Rodriguez describes as “the most significant of the campaigning groups against child prostitution”, originally focused on the issue of children being exploited in Southeast Asia by Western tourists.[39] Women’s rights groups and anti-tourism groups joined to protest the practice of sex tourism in Bangkok, Thailand. The opposition to sex tourism was spurred on by an image of a Thai youth in prostitution, published in Time and by the publication of a dictionary in the United Kingdom describing Bangkok as “a place where there are a lot of prostitutes”.[40] Cultural anthropologists Susan Dewey and Patty Kelly write that though they were unable to inhibit sex tourism and rates of prostitution of children continued to rise, the groups “galvanized public opinion nationally and internationally” and succeeded in getting the media to cover the topic extensively for the first time.[41] ECPAT later expanded its focus to protest child prostitution globally.[42]

In South Africa, the author’s country of origin, owing to the largely corrupt police force and tardy legal system, post liberation, in 1994, child prostitution is a major and ever growing problem in the country. Whilst there are no reliable figures available, it has been estimated that there are more than 30,000 children involved. South Africa has become one of the major destinations for underage sex tourism in Africa.[43]  Child prostitution is rife in South Africa and is a desperate means of survival for impoverished township children.[44]  Furthermore, policies, interventions and discourses pertaining to child prostitution have been guided by overarching political agendas that have masked the underlying structural basis of this phenomenon. These political agendas have shifted in accordance with the locus of power, control and resistance in South Africa since the 19th century. On the basis of a historical analysis there were distinct periods in which child prostitution was used to legitimate policies in favour of social control rather than social development. In the colonial period, child prostitution was used to justify stricter controls on adolescent and adult women’s sexuality and movement by colonial and traditional patriarchal authorities. In the colonial and apartheid periods, policies on child prostitution were informed by fears of mis-segregation and sexually transmitted diseases, which were used to support the racist and oppressive legislation of sexual behaviour.[45] In the present-day context, cartels have taken over and child kidnapping is used to bring in young girls into prostitution.  The problem will only escalate as crime, violence, economic disarray anarchy and corruptions continue.  The children will suffer, even more, s the legal system is grinding to a halt, encouraging the pseudo-peace seekers to have a free reign with child prostitution.  For many children in South Africa prostitution has been one means by which they can exercise their agency and power in order to ensure their survival in the face of high levels of socio-economic deprivation and rapid socio-cultural changes, all in the name of liberation, democracy and self-ownership of their physical bodies.

The Long Walk down the Brothel Alley of a Child, to nowhere![46]


[1] Personal quote by the author, November 2022.






























[30] Lim, Lin Lean (1998). The Sex Sector: The Economic and Social Bases of Prostitution in Southeast Asia. International Labour Organization. ISBN 978-9221095224.





[35] Sher, Julian (2011). Somebody’s Daughter: The Hidden Story of America’s Prostituted Children and the Battle to Save Them. Chicago Review Press. ISBN 978-1569768334.

[36] Matthews, Roger (2008). Prostitution, Politics & Policy. Routledge. ISBN 978-0203930878.

[37] Sher, Julian (2011). Somebody’s Daughter: The Hidden Story of America’s Prostituted Children and the Battle to Save Them. Chicago Review Press. ISBN 978-1569768334.

[38] Matthews, Roger (2008). Prostitution, Politics & Policy. Routledge. ISBN 978-0203930878


[40] Dewey, Susan; Kelly, Patty (2011). Policing Pleasure: Sex Work, Policy, and the State in Global Perspective. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521797351.








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Professor G. Hoosen M. Vawda (Bsc; MBChB; PhD.Wits) is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment.
Director: Glastonbury Medical Research Centre; Community Health and Indigent Programme Services; Body Donor Foundation SA.

Principal Investigator: Multinational Clinical Trials
Consultant: Medical and General Research Ethics; Internal Medicine and Clinical Psychiatry:UKZN, Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine
Executive Member: Inter Religious Council KZN SA
Public Liaison: Medical Misadventures
Activism: Justice for All

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 7 Nov 2022.

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