Child prostitution and pornography is a major abuse of a child’s legal rights. Every year, more than 1 million children are forced into prostitution and other sexual abuses like, for instance, child pornography. The growing number of sexual abuse cases remains a major concern among individuals in child protecting services (ECPAT, 2009). Globally, most countries have enacted legislation on child pornography and prostitution, although in some countries, laws against such crimes are either lacking or existing laws are inadequate. In addition, some countries still rely on wider legislations dealing with general pornography or general corruption of the minors. This is a major concern for those in child protection, since this indicates a lack of awareness on child pornography and prostitution or the issue has been given low priority. This paper will candidly examine the issue of child prostitution and pornography and some of the possible interventions.
From the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre (2009), the gravity of the damage caused by sexual abuse to a child can only be imagined. Capturing the abuse in picture via a pornographic image can only compound and magnify the original abuse. Advances in technology have allowed images to be digitized and easily stored on computers, making the effects of these images ineradicable records of the abuse. The traditional forms of pornography on videos, photographic forms, magazines, and drawings still dominate in many places. However, the Internet together with other technological advances has changed the nature and volume of available child pornography. The Internet acts as a mechanism for making, displaying, distributing, and trading child pornography and as a vehicle for child pornographers to come into contact with and trap new victims.
According to Hughes (2002), the emergence of the Internet for international communication and the availability of computers and other technologies are two global developments that have changed the picture of child pornography around the world. They have replaced traditional forms of child pornography and are together expanding the availability and market for child pornography. The Internet rich environment is also providing child sex abusers with opportunities to entrap an ensnare children from all around the world. Though many countries are taking radical steps towards controlling various cyberspace crimes, including child pornography, the rate of development is slow due to many challenges presented by the complexity of technology.
Investigations on sexually abused children indicate that they are likely to experience depression, disturbed behavior, post traumatic disorder, or even a combination of these problems. These children may also harbor suicide thoughts and other emotional and behavioral problems. Besides, sexually abused children exhibit sexualized behavior later in life, which can put them further into risk. Sexually abused children are also likely to abuse other children sexually. The problem of child sexual abuse is aggravated by the strong link between sex tourism and child prostitution. In addition, it is comparatively hard for authorities to identify children in pornographic pictures. In cases where it has been possible to identify victims, helping them recover from the trauma caused by the abuse has been difficult. The victims also live in fear that the images of their involvement in abusive behavior may be digitized and distributed between computers and over the Internet. This may make the image a permanent part of public record (UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, 2009).
Child Prostitution and Sexual Abuse
As noted from UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre (2009), child sexual abuse is not limited to girls, but boys are also abused sexually and forced into prostitution. In some countries like Sri Lanka, the prostitution of boys is even more widespread than that of girls. This happens because of the different sex roles of girls and boys, which leave girls more protected than boys. Boys are allowed more freedom from supervision and they are also expected to contribute to family income. The HIV/AIDS pandemic has also driven the crime of child prostitution. The disease has increased the number of orphans and households that are headed by children. This often makes these children more vulnerable to sexual exploitation. The belief that a child is unlikely to be infected with diseases is also feeding the demand for child sex. However, this belief may be unfounded because children may be more psychologically prone to infections since they may not be reasonable enough to make wise decisions regarding sex, such as using condoms.
The increasing rate of family dysfunctions and breakdowns is also pushing children into prostitution. Parenting problems resulting from drug abuse, alcoholism, or mental illnesses cause children to leave home at a young age and start life in the street. This highly exposes them to the risks of sexual exploitation. Poverty at the family level is also a leading cause of young people engaging in prostitution, though some of them simply want to make some extra money. Child prostitution intensifies in time of war and instability. Children are left vulnerable after the separation from their parents and can also suffer the consequences of social and legal dysfunction. Some authorities have also been discovered to accept revenues from sex tourism and are, therefore, unwilling to enact legislations to address the problem. Corrupt authorities and police also help to sustain sex trade making it a huge setback for child protection service providers (ECPAT, 2009).
The U.S. established a principal organizing base within the Customs for action against child pornography called Customs Cyber-Smuggling Center (C3). The organizations work together with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Since January 2000, C3 has received numerous tips on child pornography and most of these prompt to investigations and convictions. Countries with high Internet usage are increasingly using “Hotlines” or “Tiplines” to allow people who feel they have found incriminating activities on child sexual abuse to report it. However, the action taken on theses hotlines is highly dependent on the country (Hughes, 2002).
Awareness Raising and Campaigning
Creating awareness on child sexual abuse is a positive step towards preventing child sexual abuse. The FBI began an Innocent Images Campaign in 1995 in order to monitor and pursue online sexual offences. This has increased the number of sexual abuse cases reported by the public and their subsequent investigations (UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, 2009).
Law Enforcement Operations (Governmental and Intergovernmental Interventions)
Operation cathedral was the largest operation involving international police. The British police worked together with the Interpol to uncover a child pornography ring, dubbed The Wonderland Club consisting of 180 members from 49 different countries. These members possessed numerous child pornographic pictures and many hours of digitized video containing images of over 1,200 different children. However, over two thirds of national police forces did not take part in apprehending the members and closing down the club. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has also been successfully involved in investigating child pornography images since 1997. The UPIS has also discovered that unlawful computer transmissions and pornography ads are increasing, the Internet being a regular feature in these cases. The Postal Inspection Service investigations have succeeded in rescuing victimized children as well as identifying molesters (ECPAT, 2009).
A general feeling in many countries is that in their efforts to grow, elements in the Internet industry have not given sufficient attention to important issues concerning child safety. The public is also scarcely educated on the realities of the Internet. Children welfare organizations have undertaken a role in educating and raising awareness and press the industry to control the activities in the Internet. They have developed codes of advice for parents and guardians regarding the safety of their children on the Internet. The most important issue is stressing the danger of strangers in the virtual world since it is equally important as it is in the real world. Raising awareness and public education is the very fast and, therefore, the best way to prevent and deal with child sexual abuse. It is vital that everyone understands that child sexual abuse is a crime and it causes severe damages to children. It is also necessary for all people to know that help is available if they seek for it and that a child can never consent to sex. It is also necessary to increase the knowledge of parents and caregivers on the protective measures to take in order to keep their children safe (ECPAT, 2009).
A strong public education message passed to the public is very effective in making everyone in the society realize that child sexual abuse is both their responsibility and problem. This aims to eliminate any tolerance or what the society accepts as appropriate interactions between children and adults. Providing the public with accurate information will break the taboo that surrounds child sexual abuse and will assist in providing solutions. This is because most sexual abuse acts are perpetrated by people known to the child, such as relatives, teachers, and friends. Only a small fraction of those who do these acts are apprehended and convicted. It is also crucial to inform the public that child sexual abuse is perpetrated by adults as well as juveniles. According to research findings, adolescent boys have been found to make up an approximate 23% of sexual offenders. Research findings also indicate that 40-80% of children who abuse others have themselves been abused. Therefore, creating awareness about how to identify and deal with such cases is paramount. Current child sexual abuse education programs seem to concentrate on teaching young children how to recognize the events of abuse and how to develop personal safety skills. However, it is also crucial to focus on helping children who are the victims of present and past sexual abuse by encouraging them to talk about such incidents to their parents and other responsible persons (Hughes, 2002).
In order to succeed, prevention programs should not focus on children only but also on adults. This is because providing children with knowledge concerning sexual abuse may not protect them from such abuse by older and stronger offenders. These concerns are well founded since research findings indicate that about 40% of child abuse victims are 6 years old and below and may be easily entrapped and vulnerable. Therefore, to ensure that child sexual abuse prevention programs are effective; their primary aim should be shifting the responsibility of child abuse to adults and the society. The signs of sexual abuse may be difficult to identify even in knowledgeable parents, and this creates the need to educate them on the ways to safeguard their children. In addition, parents, as well as caregivers and professionals, need to be educated on how to react if a certain child happens to disclose sexual abuse, how to respond to a his or her needs when they have disclosed abuse, and how to report sexual abuse (UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, 2009).
It is the collective responsibility of nations, individuals, and the society to prevent child sexual abuse. To achieve this, strengthening child protection services is required. Governments should enact legislations to protect children from sexual abuse as stakeholders focus on promoting public awareness and education in order to address the issues that lead to sexual abuse.