I accepted an invitation to talk about the much-publicised US child-trafficking sweep last week that resulted in lots of arrests of adults and rescues of a small number of people under 18. I wrote about this FBI-led event the other day, and I was initially reluctant to speak on a public-radio show from Las Vegas, Nevada, that seemed to be composed exclusively of crime- and rescue-oriented people. But the producer asked me for suggestions for other speakers, and I was able to get a couple of names to her fast enough, with the result that the panel became reasonably balanced.
Child Prostitution in Nevada, an audio link to the hour-long programme, illustrates four points of view: a court defender of young people caught selling sex, a psychologist who tries to help them feel better, a harm-reduction project for teenagers in New York (Safe Horizons) and me on childhood, migration and sex.
I find the format of such programmes repressive, the taking turns and inability to converse normally with other participants. The public defender seemed to say the word pimp a dozen times, expressing frustration that the girls refuse to denounce any. How can I help them if they won’t give up their exploiters? she wails. How do you know they actually have pimps? I wanted to ask. There could be some classic pimp figures involved, but it is very possible that she is generalising lots of boyfriends, girlfriends, family members and other folk who live with or share the girls’ earnings as pimps whom the girls themselves do not see that way. I doubt that many of them look like the picture above.
A local paper’s news story about the raids illustrates clearly the police focus. Most of those picked up were adults, and they can’t all be traffickers, which makes it obvious that consenting adults carrying out sex-money exchanges are those suffering most from such operations. The article’s title even admits the operation was a sting, and the gallery of arrested faces, one crying, is enough to make one sick: National prostitution sting nets 20 locally.
There are other ways to think about young people who don’t want to stay home, or who can’t, than trafficking, prostitution and pimps: the children tag on this blog provides a few.
– Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist