Academic journal article The American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law

Gender Respect Education: A Proposal to Combat Commercial Sexual Exploitation

Academic journal article The American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law

Gender Respect Education: A Proposal to Combat Commercial Sexual Exploitation

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

A twenty-three year-old young woman died after being brutally gang raped and beaten for hours in New Delhi on December 16th, 2012.1 Despite a world-wide outcry over sexual crimes and widespread harassment of women in public, similar attacks continue, including the rape of a seven-year-old girl in a train's toilet compartment in August of 2013.2 This horrific mistreatment of women and girls is not limited to India or other developing countries.3 Even in the United States, an industrialized nation where women have greater freedom than their counterparts in other countries, rape and sexual assault is still prevalent enough to create a major cause for concern. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice, in 2010, women in the United States experienced 270,000 completed, attempted, or threatened rape or sexual assaults.4 Still, this number likely underestimates the extent of the problem, due to the tendency to underreport.5 Violence against women and girls "cuts across all social and economic strata and is deeply embedded in cultures around the world."6 The World Health Organization's Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan, described violence against women as a "global health problem of epidemic proportions."7

The high prevalence of rape is just one example of violence against women that plagues our worldwide community. Girls also face constant abuse through sexual exploitation as they are trafficked to perform sex work.8 Human trafficking is not only an international problem, but also is prevalent domestically.9 "The United States is the only modern democratic country where the majority of trafficking victims are its own citizens."10

Most trafficked children are girls, many of whom already face sexual or physical abuse at home, have run away and end up homeless, making them highly susceptible to exploitation, while others are kidnapped by "pimps" who rape, beat and/or manipulate them until they seemingly voluntarily agree to engage in sex work.11 The federal and state governments have passed legislation to help combat sex trafficking, which henceforth will be referred to as commercial sexual exploitation of children ("CSEC").12 The focus has been on the move away from criminal prosecution of child sex workers and treating these youth as victims who are in need of services.13 Many organizations, both domestic and international, also provide specific services, such as counseling and residential programs, to intervene and then rehabilitate sexually exploited children.14 However, there are relatively few prevention efforts in the United States that are specifically aimed at CSEC.15

This article emphasizes the importance of the prevention of violence against girls, focusing on CSEC. I use the public health model for addressing the needs of commercially sexually exploited children with the aim of reducing and ultimately eliminating sexual violence against girls. Since the majority of children who are sexually exploited are female, this article focuses on changing the societal views that increase the perception and treatment of girls as lesser beings, or objects that can be traded or sold through activities like sex trafficking. While it is important that girls can empower and protect themselves, the focus should shift from the victims to the actual and potential perpetrators, both pimps and purchasers, who should be taught to respect girls and women rather than believe it is acceptable to rape, sexually assault, sell, or purchase sex from a girl. Part I includes background information about the extent of the problem of CSEC, including the prevalence of child sex trafficking and current efforts and models used to combat the practice. Part II then explains the source of society's perception of girls, which contributes to violence against girls and women. I argue that our culture's objectification of girls, as well as our apathy and trivialization of rape and sexual exploitation, are the main causes of violence against girls and women, including CSEC. …

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