Modern Babylon? Prostituting Children in Thailand

Modern Babylon? Prostituting Children in Thailand

Modern Babylon? Prostituting Children in Thailand

Modern Babylon? Prostituting Children in Thailand

Synopsis

Child prostitution became one of the key concerns of the international community in the 1990s. World congresses were held, international and national laws were changed and concern over "cemmercially sexually exploited children" rose dramatically. Rarely, however, were the children who worked as prostitutes consulted of questioned in this process, and the voices of these children brought into focus. This book is the first to address the children directly, to examine their daily lives, their motivations and their perceptions of what they do. Based on 15 months of fieldwork in a Thai tourist community that survived through child prostitution, this book draws on anthropological theories on childhood and kinship to contextualize the experiences of this group of Thai child prostitutes and to contrast these with the stereotypes held of them by those outside their community.

Heather Montgomery is a member of the Fertility and Reproduction Studies Group and a British Academy Post Doctoral Research Fellow at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford. She has recently been appointed Lecturer in Child Studies at the Open University.

Excerpt

The prostitution of children is not an easy topic to research, to read or to write about. It is a supremely emotive issue, which stands as an affront to accepted notions of appropriate sexuality, to the nature of childhood, and to the responsibilities that adults have towards children. It is unsurprising that so many voices of protest have been raised against it in recent years and that it has become so important an issue for Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). It is equally unsurprising that few academics, outside departments of social work or social policy, have shown much interest in it. In some respects, there is little that many people wish to say about it except that it is a deviation, a distortion of adult/child relationships and of accepted sexual norms. There is an understandable squeamishness about inquiring too deeply into the nature of such abuse or in looking too closely at the effects it has on the child or the abuser. It is too disturbing to do anything other than condemn it. Certainly, it is a subject that supposedly dispassionate academics have been reluctant to involve themselves in, not least because it means confronting issues of morality and ethics head-on, which inevitably leads to suggestions and recommendations, becoming 'part of the solution'.

It is not easy to divorce the academic study of child prostitution from its moral context. Issues such as this, or indeed, any form of child abuse, do not exist in a moral vacuum and anybody reading or researching these issues is bound to come to the project with deeply held beliefs about the nature of abuse and strong feelings about those who abuse children. The 'neutrality' or 'detachment' of the participant observer has long been called into question, but it is a problem which becomes particularly acute in research on topics such as this. While applied anthropology has tried to tie the . . .

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