By Amrita Paul:
“…but their hearts ache and their bodies are sore and the voice of the street is never far away.”
According to UNESCO, more than one million children give into prostitution every year and most of them are from Asia. First published in 1992, “The Child and the Tourist” attempts to take a closer look at the lives of those unfortunate children who are dragged into this profession in order to serve the passing whims of over indulged tourists.
The book starts of with a description of Patpong Street in Thailand which is visited by over five million tourists each year. In broad daylight, it is just another ‘ordinary narrow and somewhat dirty street with a few shops and restaurants catering for local office workers’. But by 5 in the evening the place is transformed into a jammed street with walls and lights and people wearing shirts and skirts and fake Rolex watches. And as one goes further down the street he is likely to find women greeting him and asking him for drinks. More often than not, the woman with her lips smeared in lipstick and smelling of cheap perfume is but a young girl, hardly fourteen to fifteen years of age.
While some might be deeply saddened by the exploitation of such young minds, most try to take advantage of the situation by giving into their paedophilic fancies. And the tragic part is that many cases of child abuse by tourists are regularly covered up by police and politicians. As the author says-“It is not being a poor child in a poor country.” Children grow up in extreme poverty and for most of them there is no way out. But in view of today’s commercial world fresh young bodies are always in demand, but it is the CHILD who gets lost in the process.
The kinds of tourists vary from women paedophiles to men demanding to have sex only with virgins. From pornography to casual experiments, these children have seen it all at tender ages. The only question one can possibly ask is –What has become of our world where defenseless children can be bought and sold in such a callous fashion? But the problem doesn’t end there. The two other major factors which affect the present situation vastly are the increase in the number of AIDS cases and also the failure in any rehabilitation program for children who have been long-term victims of prostitution. In order to control such appalling numbers, a strict response is needed not just from the desired country but also from the entire international community.
“The children who are trapped in slavery of these brothels were born with same dreams and hopes of my children and children everywhere. And the men whose sexual appetites keep these children in slavery are the men who live seemingly respectable lives in my street and yours.”
And this is where the book strikes a chord because it is not afraid of asking questions. And may be it is high time to ask ourselves- Is it right to commit to our baser instincts at the cost of victimizing the future? And can we rise above ourselves to prevent such an onslaught of slavery? As the author poignantly concludes- “This is why this unpleasant story needs to be told. So that we know about the children and about the hidden evil which lies beneath your society and mine.”