|Session 5 - Childhood abuse and exploitation|
5.3 - Impact of globalisation
In the previous section the notion of cultural relativity was introduced to remind us of the shifting definitions, complexity and presence of child abuse. Whilst in Europe and other northern countries it may be possible to pride ourselves on the eradication or reduction of abusive child labour it is also possible to say that our consumerism has displaced the problem to other southern countries with looser labour policies concerning child workers. Our desire for cheaper goods allows for the exploitation of vulnerable children in manufacturing and other industries. A national perspective is thus inadequate for understanding the complex relationships between 'purchasers and providers' in their broader sense.
A 1998 report by Christian Aid (UK) addresses this problem as it manifests itself in the sports industry. Rather than citing the report highlights here please read the summary or full version of the report (in 'Research' and then 'Reports') at http://www.christian-aid.org.uk
The report helpfully explores the sensitivities embedded in the debates about child labour as they relate to wealthy northern countries with welfare safety nets and southern countries with impoverished communities living at survival level. The report also addresses the realities involved in putting protective mandates into practice and how labour issues are often entwined with issues of gender inequalities.
Levy (1999:Law 3) argues that exploitation has become increasingly complex because of its transnational scope. Citing a 1996 UN report he says it provides;
In the same way that the production sources displace the child labour problem across borders so it is with other forms of transnational exploitation.
Global movement of individuals and populations with spending power has made it easier to take advantage of cheaper and more accessible international travel. The coveting of exotica has not been confined to pristine beaches and the charm of indigenous foods and buildings. Unfortunately it extends to the local people themselves. Perceived qualities of societies of south-east Asia, for example, have led to the development of murky industries in:
If access to children is restricted in their own country people will travel to others to meet their sexual gratification, often cheaply and with few questions asked. In the same way that the Netherlands, particularly Amsterdam, became a sex tourism destination so did countries such as Thailand and Morocco but more explicitly for involving children. The situation is yet again one of complex consumerism that in the past has meant people, especially men, have been able to engage in activities with children that would carry criminal convictions in their own country. The only way to address the international problem is through international co-operation and often unprecedented levels of joint working between agencies such as the police and immigration.
See for a report on the issue from The International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children. For those who want access to pornography involving children the need to travel has been obviated by the development of the internet. Once again poor Asian and Eastern European countries may have easier access to children but electronic communication allows for global consumption of the images produced. For those who do want direct access to children the internet once again facilitates this through the provision of information for and communication between pedophiles.
Sexualised imagery may be gathered closer to home, however. The use of video, digital and other cameras can be used to take pictures of children engaging in day to day activities and then presented inappropriately as pornography. The parent, carer of child may be unaware that pictures or images have been taken.
Enticement and deceit by adults in developing relationships with children via the internet also presents a new risk factor to children in any country from child abusers.
A recent court case in England involving a former pop star described how the man spent up to twelve hours per day searching the internet and downloading pornographic images of children. The internet has increased access for and potentially demand for illegal material. Some of the key issues are set out in a paper, promoted initially through the Law and the Internet: Regulating Cyberspace website.
The paper outlines issues at attempts at governance at UK, EU and US levels.
Session 6 will go on to look at displacement and movement of child populations and how this can lead to increased vulnerability and exposure to abuse and exploitation of children who may get 'lost' as individuals in their uprooting.