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My parent and my pimp - Child prostitution in Jamaica

By Stephen-Claude Hyatt, Contributor

ALL THROUGHOUT the world, the theme of prostitution and more specifically, child prostitution, has been given much attention. In quite a few countries, "red light" districts have been established to promote the age-old trade of selling one's body for favours, as legal. Even in Jamaica, women of the trade and other individuals, have been protesting to make same legal and harassment free, and rallying for the establishment of "red light" districts here.

The reality, however, is that the modern prostitute is no longer only female, as there are a growing number of men and children who have either worked their way in or are forced into the "industry". The reality within the Jamaican society these days, is that we have children, who have been encouraged and even forced by their parents to sell their bodies for money and favours.

Many Jamaican women, for years, have been content with the understanding that their teenaged daughters are sexually involved with mature men, old enough to be their fathers, in exchange for taking care of the family. What is not known is that there are Jamaica women who will send their daughters and sons out nightly to "work the beat" and take money home to them. Many of these children are not allowed back into the home unless a certain amount of money is made nightly.

Quite a few of these children, some of whom are boys, have to sell their bodies to these "big men" on and off the hills, in order for them and their families to survive. These children have to perform terrible acts with these men, some of whom take advantage of them without paying. This is cause for serious alarm, as we have to now take into consideration the fact that these children may be walking around with sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. Many admit that they do not use a condom when they have sex, as many of the men do not want to use same. Not to mention the emotional and psychological scares these children and young people are experiencing because of careless parents and caregivers who have become pimps instead of providers.

What have we become? How can we say we love our children and yet introduce them to this type of lifestyle? Many of the young have no future to look forward to, as they are pulled from school by these wolves called parents, and sent to earn their keep. Another reality is that many of the street children were prostitutes and have homes; however, they prefer running away from same and become homeless and foodless, instead of compromising themselves for "pimp-like" parents.

Additionally, some "women of the night", who have gotten a little up in age, have been recruiting young people, both their children and others, male and female into the lifestyle. These "retirees" massage their protegees into the field by introducing them to the "tricks of the trade" and the "hot spots". In return, these young people have to give over a percentage of their earnings to their recruiters, or else.

The question is, what is the government, other institutions and individuals doing about this form of abuse? Let us not kid ourselves, this is indeed child abuse in all the possible forms. These children are abused verbally by their customers and "pimps", they are taken advantage of sexually, and they are abused physically by some of their customers who refuse to pay. When will laws be tabled to have these parents tried and convicted for their actions? How different is this from child pornography? The only difference is that instead of sending pictures, we are sending the child live and direct, for them to be assaulted and abused in person. For me the latter is even worse than the former, as the latter exposes the child directly to sexual and other abuses.

Now we wonder why is it that our young people are rebellious and violent, why they are so aggressive and bitter. Take a look around and see the various things we put them through as adults, as parents, as caregivers, as a government, as a church, as a people. We have indeed turned our backs on our children and left them to suffer and die, whether we personally sent them to prostitute themselves, or we are aware and doing nothing.

What about "suffer the little children to come unto me", which Jesus declared? Is it that we no longer regard same or that we now have a different interpretation or spin on the words?

Stephen-Claude Hyatt is a guidance counsellor at Jamaica College and can be contacted at yahgnosis@hotmail.com

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