Child on swing image

Challenging the Child/Adult Distinction in Theory and Practice on Prostitution

This article argues that contemporary concern about ending child prostitution is misdirected in its strategy. Some theorists and activists, even the ILO, are seeking to create a distinction between adult and child prostitution as if child prostitution could be ended whilst adult prostitution remains intact. The motivation for the distinction relies upon trends in the 1990s to characterize men’s prostitution abuse of adult women as consti- tuting legitimate work, choice and agency for the women themselves, and to construct a profitable prostitution industry which can create profits for governments and sex industrialists. I will argue that child and adult prostitution are inextricably interlinked, both in personnel (the women and children work together), in terms of the abusers (who make no distinctions), in the harm they cause and in that both constitute harmful traditional practices which must be ended. The acceptance of men’s prostitution abuse as the basis for the industrialization of adult prostitution increases the scale and harm of child prostitution. Thus only policies to eradicate all of men’s abusive prostitution behaviour will serve to mitigate child prostitution.

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