Nov 012007

Isn’t it interesting  that when the protesting monks are attacked by the Myanmar/Burmese military, the world is horrified, but the military sexually exploiting young girls? Apparently no big deal.

As the tireless Jennifer Drew notes, the gender-neutral language in this one rare article in the Guardian (UK) article, “Child Prostitutes Available At $100 a night: the human cost of junta’s repression: Military officials profiting from sex industry as sleazy trade flourishes amid poverty and misrule, say international campaigners” invisibilizes the Burmese girls who are being sexually trafficked. The headline’s referral to child prostitutes and the human cost of trafficking is misogynistly misleading, as Drew points out, there is no mention in the article of Burmese boys, only Burmese girls.

Yet as the beginning of the article makes quite clear, this is a story about the sexual exploitation and rape of girls:

“This is a side of life the Burmese military junta might prefer you did not see: girls who appear to be 13 and 14 years old paraded in front of customers at a nightclub where a beauty contest thinly veils child prostitution. Tottering in stiletto heels and miniskirts, young teenage girls criss-crossed the dance-floor as part of a nightly “modelling” show at the Asia Entertainment City nightclub on a recent evening in Rangoon.”

But in the discussion about quantifying the problem and discussing what is being done to stop it, the article  leads one to believe that this is a problem affecting all children and worse, that this is simply another form of commerce:

“Information on the Burmese sex trade is extremely limited, as NGOs and other organisations can not conduct proper research within the country, said Patchareeboon Sakulpitakphon at the Bangkok offices of the international organisation Ecpat, whose acronym stands for End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes. As a result of the restrictions, what is known is limited to a “basic picture based on what victims have said, and information that leaks out,” Ms Patchareeboon wrote in an email. But, she added, the information available indicates that “[child] sex tourism is emerging in Burma as well as the development of the sex industry“.”

As Drew points out, articles like this, while on the surface doing a great service by reporting this horrible story, are in reality contributing to the marginalization of the issue of violence against women and girls.

“It is male officials profiting from this ever increasing abuse of women’s and girls’ human rights. But articles such as these by using gender neutral language serve to invisibilise the global abuse of women’s and girls’ human rights as well as once again invisibilising the core issue which is the global belief men as a group are entitled to buy women’s and girls’ bodies in order to rape and sexually abuse them.”

 November 1, 2007  Posted by on November 1, 2007

  One Response to “Burma: Girls Prostituted to Serve Military Officials”

  1. Damn, I’ve been a feminist for years, and agree with the perspective put forth in this article. But the minute you use a word like “invisibilizes,” you’ve lost me. No one can take you seriously when you use this kind of academic “neologizing.”

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