Spread of AIDS Increases Demand for Younger Hookers

Article excerpt

Helena Karlen, international vice chairperson of End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism (ECPAT), spoke to special correspondent Takehiko Nomura in Tokyo. She was there to address a follow-up meeting of the World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, held at Stockholm in August 1996.

Question: ECPAT's campaign to end child prostitution in Asian tourism was begun in 1991. But the number of young people involved in commercial sex has increased all over the world. What's been driving this trend?

Answer: One quite important [factor] is the worldwide spread of HIV - AIDS - which makes many people believe that they have safer sex with a minor.

That is a strong driving force for people who have non-pedophilic behavior. When it comes to people with such a behavior, they have a sexual focus on children, regardless of HIV risk.

Of course, the development of the world in the past 30 years has increased travel. . . . It becomes easier and cheaper to travel, and we must remember [that] the tourism industry is one of the biggest in this world, and actually the fastest growing industry.

So that makes it possible for people to go abroad to a developing country where there are thousands and thousands of children who are very much exposed, very vulnerable and easily manipulated, and that makes them also accessible to people traveling. There are other factors. Another important one is consumerism. In the industrialized world, people get used to the fact that almost anything can be bought with money. Unfortunately, this is also affecting children. People are actually buying, using children like commodities.

"Very often, people in the industrialized world going to Asia, Latin America or Africa think that abusing a child - using a child, buying a child for sexual purposes - is not so harmful. Or that it is less harmful than back in their own country. This is how many think because these are children in a developing country. And many also excuse themselves by saying, "I'm not harming the child actually by paying a little money. …