“Representing sex trafficking in Southeast Asia? The victim staged” is an article written by Nicolas Lainez (2010) highlighting issues of child sexual abuse and exploitation in Southeast Asia. For four years, the author, Lainez had worked across several Southeast Asian countries as a photojournalist where he worked for several non-governmental organizations, and tens of international organizations concerned with human rights in exposing an intricate case of sexual exploitation of young girls. According to the author, girls who become victims of child sexual abuse are sold to traders and operators brothels where they are purposely paraded in the streets as prostitutes (Zheng, 2010). While many organizations are working in the region to address the social construction that has led to an escalation of the problem, Lainez (2010) believes that these efforts are bearing fewer fruits due to the complexity of the issue. The author writes this article to tell the story of thousands of Asian women engaged in prostitution by focusing on living and working conditions as well as socio-cultural relationships with their families and clients.
After working for four years of intense field work, the author, Lainez (2010) realized that what he was doing was starting to make little sense as it was not possible to tell the story of the women sexual exploitation which included exposure to prostitution using one perspective NGOs and other international organizations he had worked with employed. The author sought to establish how the story had developed for over 20 years (Zheng, 2010). To reconstruct and represent the story in its entirety, the author organized the work to include first explanations including the staging of the issue, the prostituted and the trafficked child as well as culturalism and sexuality. Besides this, Lainez explores the subject of physical pain, numbers, and statistics as well as the politics surrounding the issue.
After four years of being involved in extensive fieldwork in Southeast Asia dealing with issues of sex abuse and human rights issues in the region, Lainez the need to tell the story from a different angle. For Lainez, (2010) it was necessary to get deeper into the real issues behind sexual abuse, prostitution and human trafficking they have been highlighting. It was essential to understand how the media and NGOs, for instance, viewed sexually exploited children. Lainez (2010) also wanted to expose how repetitions of the same story in the media and NGOs for the same stories, affected the issue of how the story of sexual abuse and prostitution was being addressed.
A look at the issue of prostitution in Southeast Asia uncovers the presence of a standard representation of the explicitly abused tyke. Criticism battles ﬁrst target sex the travel industry including teenagers and afterward human trafﬁcking has enormously utilized generalizations. This simpliﬁer recounted, and shed-tearing commonplaces have prompted explaining a cleaned picture of the injured individual whose declaration has been displayed as a visible verification of a point apparent as deplorable.
Upon discovery of the horrifying story of child prostitution and sexual abuse among Southeast Asian countries, NGOs and the media created a consistent narrative to highlight the teenage sexual abuse in the region. As observed by the author, the NGOs that had taken up the issue of Asian child sexual abuse used a similar narrative (Zheng, 2010). Typically, children were neglected by their parents, exploited by local mafias and rescued by NGOs working for various Western aid organizations. These narratives were told repeatedly to an extent one would believe that all the children rescued from prostitution from these NGOs had been kidnapped, sold and forced into prostitution where there were excessively mistreated and left for dead. Terming the narrative as the use of sociological shortcuts that disqualify and singularize children. Lainez (2010) argued that the use of similar tale to tell the story of the Asian child sexual abuse reduced the identity of the children exposed to sexual abuse to a simple victim of injustice. In this sense, children were treated merely as victims and nothing more. To create emotional appeal from those who heard the stories, the details of the activities highlighted to include kidnapping, beating, rape, and offered to tourists. The accounts were uniquely created to conceal any personal information.
Limiting the story to horrific scenes instead as opposed to highlighting personal circumstances created disgust and repulsion from viewers for growing tired of hearing the same story repeatedly without any positive developments or an alternative to the problem stressed. The use of shortcuts as described above made the problems experienced by Asian children reduced into a widespread common problem. The simplification also meant that the issue became a White affair as the ultimate motive of the whole circus was to offer the kidnapped and sold children as sex pests to Western tourists frequenting Southeast Asian countries (Zheng, 2010). This way, the real story of widespread abuse and exploitation of Asian child by clients who included local the local clients was not exposed. According to the author, the use of narration as the primary of revealing the stories where it involved the victim and narrator meant that the latter knew in detail the suffering of the former. Repeated use of the same script to tell different stories meant had several implications including vagueness of some of the cases.
After being involved for four years in exposing the story of sexual exploitation of teenagers in Southeast Asian countries, the author posits that he realized that the approach used by the NGOs and journalists to tell the story was counterproductive. It was at the backdrop of this that the author decided to establish whether indeed the approach using the similar to tell the story of child prostitution was indeed counterproductive. Concerning this, the author that the strategy used by the NGOs was not effective as it largely ignored adult prostitution, personal circumstances, and did not involve families of the victims. After years of campaigns against child prostitution, the author argues that it was not sensible to approach the issue of sexual exploitation of women including a rising in cases of prostitution by focusing on child prostitution (Zheng, 2010). To tackle the problem, focusing on adult prostitution was necessary as the new political, economic and social changes in the post-cold war saw significant shifts in the issue. Unlike in the former years where kidnapping of young girls was highly presented, the developments brought by the end of the war led to a shift in strategy by those operating prostitution. Notably, agents used job promises in Bangkok and other thriving cities only to be confined in brothels after that.
The shift in strategy for those operating prostitution business implied that following the same script of the dealing with the problem of sexual exploitation of women in Southeast Asia and other countries could no longer bear desirable results. As a result, it was important that a new alternative strategy for dealing with the problem be formulated. Perhaps in response to changing circumstances, the author argues that a similar strategy to one employed earlier in dealing with child prostitution and sexual abuse has been developed. Typically, traffickers deceive victims with job promise and good life only to detain them in brothels once they have reached the designated destinations. The mode of operation adopted by various NGOs is to pitch rescue missions for good and innocent victims while leaving the bad girls who deliberately choose to migrate illegally.
The author argues that the approach taken by contemporary crusaders against corruption include the use of documentary films where beautiful and exotic scenes are employed in making the films is wrong. The visual representation of an exotic in a way glorifies the very act these documentaries are helping to fight. In a movie tilted Emmanuelle in Bangkok, for example, Thailand is depicted as a land where Europeans come to quest their sexual desires (Zheng, 2010). In the same movie, Thai women have been reduced to a body desired by males. At the turn of events, the author argues that it is not surprising that prostitution activities in Southeast Asia, particularly in Bangkok has continued to flourish despite the efforts to liberate women from sexual exploitation.
Though the use of movies and television shows to address the issue of sexual violence against women and young girls continues to receive attention, the author argues that the number of victims reached by these strategies is deficient. To get at the bottom of the issue, the author gives how the numbers have been changing over the years. In 1989, Thailand was estimated having 800,000 children engaged in prostitution (Zheng, 2010). In 1994, the number of children sold for prostitution in the world was expected to be 1 million by a Norwegian government. A report by the U.S. State Department showed that 700,000 children and two million are victims of trafficking and the figures seem to be rising.
As argued and evidenced in the article, it is clear that the problem of women sexual abuse is a worldwide problem. The world can no longer sit and watch as millions of women and children are forced into a position and other forms of sexually abuse. The only way NGOs and international organizations including media station can get it right is by adopting a new approach of dealing with the issue. Using a similar approach to a complex problem is unlikely to be effective
Lainez, N. (2010). 8 Representing sex trafficking in Southeast Asia? Sex Trafficking, Human
Rights, and Social Justice, 134.
Zheng, T. (2010). Representing sex trafﬁcking in Southeast Asia?: The victim staged. In Sex
Trafficking, Human Rights, and Social Justice (pp. 148-163). Routledge.