PLEASE READ this powerful article by GEMS GIRLS founder Rachel Lloyd on the lack of CHOICE in the sextrade. (@GEMSGIRLS)
[Fair Observer] — *[Note: The following is an excerpt from Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls Are Not for Sale, a memoir about Rachel Lloyd’s experiences as a survivor of commercial sexual exploitation and her work over the last 15 years running Girls Educational And Mentoring Services (GEMS).]
The question of choice impacts the way that domestically trafficked girls are viewed and treated by our society. Many people believe that girls “choose” this life, and while it is true that most girls are not kidnapped into the sex industry, to frame their actions as choice is at best misleading. It is clear from the experiences of girls, that while they may have acted in response to individual, environmental and societal factors, this may not necessarily be defined as a choice.
Webster’s Dictionary describes the act of choosing as “to select from a number of possible alternatives; decide on and pick out.” Therefore, in order for a choice to be a legitimate construct, you’ve got to believe that: a) you actually have possible alternatives; and b) you’ve also got to have the capacity to weigh these alternatives against one another and decide on the best avenue. Commercially sexually exploited and trafficked girls have neither – their choices are limited by their age, their family, their circumstances and their inability to weigh up one bad situation against another, given their developmental and emotional immaturity. Therefore, the issue of choice has to be framed in three ways: age and age-appropriate responsibility, the type of choice and the context of the choice.
The age factor is perhaps the most obvious reason that discussions around true “choice” are erroneous and unhelpful to the debate. There’s a reason that we have age limits and standards governing the “choices” that children and youth can make, from drinking, to marrying, to driving, to leaving school, and that is because we, as a society, recognize that there’s a difference in child/adolescent and adult development.
There’s also a fairly obvious reason that the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and its reauthorizations in 2003, 2005, and 2008 have all supported a definition of child sex trafficking where children under the age of 18 found in the commercial sex trade are considered to be victims of trafficking without requiring that they experienced “force, fraud, or coercion” to keep them there. For victims of sex trafficking aged 18 and over, the law requires the “force, fraud, or coercion” standard. In defining the crime of sex trafficking, Congress created certain protections for children. It’s taken as a given that children and youth are operating from a different context, especially in light of age of consent laws.
Not only are choices shaped by external limitations decided by age, they’re also dictated by the psychological and emotional limitations that is adolescent development. In hindsight, as adults looking back on our teenage selves, we can recognize our own impulsivity, risk-taking, our need for peer approval, rebellion against our parents, our limited understanding of consequences – in short, all the characteristics that define being a teenager. Very few adults would honestly want to revisit the naïveté, vulnerability, and often flat out ignorance of adolescence. Many parents don’t trust their own 16-year-old to drive their car, pick their own “good enough” friends, or stay home alone for the weekend without hosting a party. Yet, interestingly, I’ve met lots and lots of adults who feel that a 16-year-old is completely mature enough to be considered fully capable and competent of making the choice to be in the sex industry.
Given their age and psychological development, children and youth often make decisions that are not in their best interests, or that perhaps are unsafe. It’s an unwise choice to meet a stranger in person whom you’ve only met on MySpace, not brilliant decision-making to get in someone’s car when you barely know them, nor is it a great idea to run away from home with $6 in your pocket and nowhere to go. Yet none of these “choices” are the same thing as “choosing” to be in the commercial sex industry – even if they end up leading down that path. It can also be an unwise decision to go home with someone you’ve just met, particularly if you’ve been drinking, and yet making that decision in no way means that you “chose” to get raped.
READ THE REST OF THIS EXCELLENT ARTICLE AT THE LINK BELOW: (And please don’t forget to like, comment and share to spread the word and support the cause. Thanks! )
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