The prostitution of children involves the use of the child in sexual relations in exchange for cash or other kinds of payment such as housing, food, scholarships, high grades etc. They work under the control of a pimp or independently, in brothels, bars, hotels, massage parlours, clubs, private homes, and on the streets. The average age of children in prostitution is 14, and although we mostly hear about girls being exploited in prostitution, boys are often exploited too. Girls generally dominate the child sex trade, but in some places, the demand for boys in commercial sex work is actually higher!
It’s important to remember that the terms “child prostitute” and “child sex worker” are problematic. This is because these terms, on their own, fail to make it clear that children cannot be expected to make an informed choice to prostitute themselves with full knowledge and understanding.
The prostitution of children is fed by local and foreign demand. Local demand can’t be understood without considering how societies are shaped, historically, socially, and culturally. Foreign demand — including organized child sex tourism, “sexpats,” and military and aid workers who exchange help for sex with children — is fueled in part by economic policies that advocate foreign investment. Although foreign demand receives more attention from the media (especially in child sex tourism cases), local demand almost always surpasses foreign demand.
At the age of 12, Marlyn ran away from a life of poverty in Mindoro, an island south of Manila. She had been a victim of rape at the hands of her stepfather who threatened to kill her and her mother if she told anyone. Feeling hopeless and unwanted, Marlyn found a job selling cosmetics on an island resort, where she was introduced to Bernard, a French bar operator. He offered her a job, and after a few days of working, he raped Marlyn in a little cubicle at the back of the bar. Marlyn was told that this was a common occurrence and that he expected young girls to co-operate if they wanted to get ahead in life. Marlyn felt like a slave, having lost her dignity and self-worth.
One day a sex tourist from Holland paid a large sum of money to Bernard and bought Marlyn for himself for a week. She was taken to Manila, and brought to an up-scale hotel. No one took notice of the foreigner taking the young girl to his room. It was here that he met a German friend of his who had an even younger child with him. The man had video equipment and had made videos of Pia, who was only 13. They left and together they went back to the island. There, the mayor’s wife was shocked that Pia, so young, was with a sex tourist, and the woman demanded that they be arrested. The abusers however, escaped back to Europe due to police and judicial corruption.