Sunday, September 15, 2002

Laura Borg

Advert campaign will fight child prostitution increase

Controversial images of childhood prostitution were being unveiled today as part of A charity's campaign to lobby government for tougher legislation.

Barnardo's was launching a harrowing advertising campaign, backed up by research, to show the worrying increase in child trafficking, prostitution and abuse.

Under the theme of "Stolen Childhood", the adverts show young children with grotesquely aged and worn faces in situations implying they are about to be abused.

They will initially appear in newspapers, but will next month appear on television and street posters.

In one advert, a young boy, his face aged and wrinkled, stands by a public toilet in front of a man undressing. In another, a young girl, with dark circles round her eyes, sits depressed on a sofa while a partially dressed man runs his fingers through her hair.

The report — also called Stolen Childhood — reveals that the children most vulnerable to prostitution are runaways, homeless and those in care, or those with poor family attachments.

Other contributing factors are domestic violence, low self-esteem, drug and alcohol abuse and misuse of the Internet.

One of the most "worrying trends" however is the growth of crack cocaine houses.

Lisa Stacey, a spokeswoman for Barnardo's said: "Crack houses are houses that dealers set up and which they encourage young people to go to — almost a party atmosphere — and get them drugged up for days on end without them knowing what's happening.

"They are very difficult for the police to break into because they are like private parties and sexual exploitation can really flourish in this environment."

Tink Palmer, the charity's principal policy officer, said: "Children as young as nine are known to have been abused through prostitution.

"Over the past three years Barnardo's projects have worked with 2,215 children who have been abused or at risk of such exploitation.

"These children have been entrapped, coerced, beaten and abused. Their childhoods have been stolen — yet the law does little or nothing to protect them.

"It is time this changed."

As a result, the charity is urging the Government to create four new criminal offences in the sexual offences legislation to be proposed later this year.

It believes it should be an offence to:

  • Buy the sexual services of a child.
  • Recruit, induce or compel a child into commercial sexual exploitation.
  • Participate in, facilitate or allow the sexual exploitation of a child.
  • Receive money or other reward for the sexual exploitation of a child.

Barnardo's also cites the results of a recent NOP poll which revealed that 80% of the public believe children in the UK run the risk of being roped into prostitution.

Ms Palmer added: "Since the public now clearly recognises abuse through prostitution is a problem for the UK's children, Barnardo's believes it is high time for the Government to introduce tough new legislation to protect children.

"We hope that our work, together with the harrowing newspaper advertisements will force them to treat the issue with the seriousness it deserves."

The report was based on research gathered from 12 Barnardo's projects around the country.

The regional results showed:

  • Of a total 1,064 children looked after by the charity in London and the South East, an estimated 25% are runaways.
  • Mobile phone and Internet abuse appear to be the key method of abuse of boys and young men in London and the South East and drug and alcohol abuse the key reason for the abuse of young girls in the same region.
  • The project aiding 104 young people in Birmingham found that many referrals were young women from the care system who had been targeted by pimps or drug dealers.
  • In the North East England, coercion by either boyfriends or drug dealers remained the main reason for leading young women into prostitution, although use of the Internet and chatrooms was another strong element.
  • The report found that the majority of young girls in Wales and the South West project were drug-dependent and that there was "a worrying growth in crack houses" in the area.
  • The project helping 60 children in the North West found that almost all of the girls are estranged from their families due to sexual abuse or domestic violence "making them prime targets for older men who offer attention, gifts and money".
  • Young girls on the project in Yorkshire were mostly targeted by abusive, older boyfriends who groomed them for sexual exploitation the report claims. Older girls were also being used to draw the younger ones into work.
  • In Scotland, the key issues for children's descent into prostitution were identified in the report as homelessness, self-harm, drug addiction, sexual abuse and poverty.
[World 2002] [News by region] [News by topic]

Created: September 16, 2002
Last modified: September 16, 2002
CSIS Commercial Sex Information Service
Box 3075, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6
Tel: +1 (604) 488-0710