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The Sexualisation of Minors In Different Parts of the World

How someone goes about their life often depends  on the way or where they were raised, and whether they lived in a heavily traditional household or a laid-back one. Many — if not all — people are introduced to the culture their parents were raised with at a young age, especially if they were born into one of the more conservative countries. So, one would expect that these culture-oriented places would be better at protecting their children from sexualisation, considering the countless rules and beliefs that come with culture. 

Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

While culture does limit the extreme concepts of sexualisation from surfacing, children from traditional homes still face the same objectification of which mostly comes from adults. This is not only internal, coming directly from family members, but as well as strangers, particularly if these minors come from what is considered an “exotic” country. 

In countries where there is more freedom from cultural practices and rules, the sexual objectification of children is still protected by how normally it occurs. America is one of  the easiest case studies, as it is one of the most developed countries, both socially and technologically-wise. In the past 10 years, America alone has experienced a 2500% increase in arrests for child pornography. One particular case, which stands out for its extremity, concerns Richard Denver Belden, who was caught in the possession of 58 terabytes of child porn. To put that into perspective, 58 terabytes is about 500 hours of video. Not only was Belden holding this much for his own personal use—he was also distributing them to other users and making these videos available for download. 

While Belden was found and sentenced by law enforcement, there is only so much the law can do to prevent such crimes. When it is simply one individual committing these violations, putting them behind bars is the only acceptable outcome. But, the sexualisation of minors cannot be stopped that easily. While it is not explicitly sexualising children, the promotion of objectification could rival it.

While child pornography is an extreme example, the sexualization of minors is sometimes less obvious. For instance, when Victoria’s Secret came out with their fashion line “Bright Young Things,” which has since been removed due to the negative uproar it generated. This fashion line specifically targeted young girls with the intention of selling them provocative clothing. Included in the line were thongs printed with the phrases “Call Me” or “Feeling Lucky?” and the name of the line itself, which implies that teenage girls are a “Thing.” While it is not explicitly sexualising children, the promotion of objectification could rival it.

But what about the countries where tradition and culture remain prevalent? Compared to the sexualisation faced by children in a more “modern” thinking country, the children in these traditional ones must face a more subtle version of objectification. As a disclaimer, there is no intention to say children from non-traditional households don’t put up with the same sexualisation, but as someone who comes from one of the most traditional countries, there is an intent to highlight the cleverly hidden, yet just as harmful objectification the minors from these places also face. 

It is so subtle that sometimes even the adults themselves do not realise that they are doing something harmful, as they think they are protecting their children. In these traditional households, modesty is a very significant factor to consider when going about the day. Most children, especially daughters, have experienced a parent telling them to “cover up” when a male relative comes to visit, despite them being a known adult and not a stranger. This delivers the message that these girls cannot be comfortable, even around their own family. While there is usually no ill-intent, it still implies the wrong idea in the long run. 

This objectification doesn’t just come from family, although that’s bad enough on its own. Children from “exotic” countries, particularly ones popular in the tourism industry, are vulnerable to tourists who indulge in child sex tourism. These minors are often sold into prostitution, whether forcibly or willingly to support their family due to poverty. Many countries struggle with the selling of child prostitutes, one being Cambodia. For years, Cambodia has seen many problems concerning this, as there is no specific law which prohibits the use and buying of prostitutes. 

Tourists, especially those looking for cheap prostitution, often indulge themselves on the streets of Cambodia. Some even use a good cause as an opportunity to sexually assault or harass children. One example of this is by visiting orphanages throughout Cambodia. These orphanages often run entirely on donations and volunteers, which is an incentive for orphanage directors to keep the children in inadequate conditions for the purpose of garnering sympathy. Because these orphanages are constantly in dependance on an outside party, they often accept whatever help they can get. In turn, this opens the door for sexual abuse to happen to the children in the orphanage. 

The ceaseless sexualisation of minors — whether from the media, from family or from strangers — all adds up to sexual abuse. This promotion and normalisation of school girls in skimpy skirts, or sexualising the skin colour and ethnicity of a child, can make the child, and others around them, feel as if they must always be aware of how they look to an adult, despite being at such a young age. It also benefits paedophiles and sex offenders, since it encourages them to share explicit content, as it is such a normal thing in society. In America alone, there are around 747, 000 registered sex offenders, and that doesn’t even include the ones who have yet to be caught.

Taking all this into account, it’s a no-brainer that the world is going downhill in terms of protecting “childhood innocence.” It is disappointing that even with so much progress in technology, and in society, we still fail to safeguard children from being sexualised. Every kid deserves to live without worrying that they might be “distracting” an adult, or a fellow peer, no matter where they come from.

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