I am so lucky because I am the mother of three beautiful and healthy girls. They are not little girls anymore, but young ladies. This fills me with both pride and a sting of sadness too. The years have passed so quickly and the dress-up parties, the barbies, and the feeding of baby dolls are things of the past. I miss it already. Of course, there is a certain enjoyment in sitting on the coach together with them as they are playing with their iPhones too. It’s just a little, shall we say, different.
I have never thought of selling my daughters into prostitution. Not once. Not even when I have been mad at them. Not even when we have been short of money. I can, in all honesty, say that I have never ever been tempted to sell my girls.
Yesterday I read an article that stayed with me all day. It was about three young girls in Cambodia who were sold into sex slavery by their own mothers. CNN I could not stop thinking about those girls and what it must have been like for them to be forced into this by their mothers, the person who should have been protecting them the most. I thought about how that would have been for my own girls, the youngest one almost 12.
The thoughts led me to another story of a girl in a similar situation in Burma. Her name is Nam San (not her real name) and she is 14. Her parents made her do the same thing. She was taken out of school and forced into prostitution when her parents lost their land and their livelihood to foreign investors. (Who, BTW, practically stole the land from the family. It’s very common problem in Burma right now since their land-laws are severely inadequate.)
Nam San is now her family’s sole bread winner. Her parents say that it is better that she does what she does since she can make more money than they can doing anything else.
From a friend I heard that elsewhere in Burma, parents are also selling their children into prostitution because they are too poor to provide for themselves, and this is their last resort.
From Rakhine state we get even more reports of children being trafficked into sex slavery as they are trying to escape from the inhuman conditions they have been put into.
It’s easy to despise the parents who do this to their own kids. It is even easier to despise the sick men who pay to have sex with children. There are times when I feel like some severe punishment involving physical pain would be the right kind. Sex offenders are some of the people I feel deserve that kind of punishment. Sorry to be so blunt, but you understand where I am coming from, don’t you?
But what about the parents who do this? Can they be justified? Not really. No matter how deep your poverty is, you should never feel justified to do such a thing to a child. But there is a BUT here: But I have never been as poor and as desperate as these people have been. So how can I judge them? The other BUT is this: Many of the parents of these girls are illiterate, and have grown up in an environment that don’t explain the danger and the trauma that theiy are putting their children in. It is easy to think that they should know that it is wrong instinctively. But some don’t.
The best medicine is always prevention. Build and run schools that girls can attend and get an education. Develop small industries that will give jobs to the parents so they can provide for their families with dignity. Educate the community leaders and the parents in small villages about the danger of prostitution. Train the local people to understand their rights so that when investors come and take their land, they can resist. These are some of the preventative measures we can take to help young girls from the hellish life of prostitution. These are some things that I am proud to say Partners is already doing.
And then there is the job of helping the ones who are already in it. We need a world to get involved in that.