Regarding Boys

This week Relentless will be doing another “red-light clinic” – this time with Urban Light, an organization that reaches out to prostituted boys (14-24 years old) in Chiang Mai. Here is an introductory post on the topic. Another post regarding the clinic specifics will be sent later.
When people think of child abuse or sex trafficking, they nearly always think of young girls. True, girls and women make up the majority of the victims, but the percentage of men and boys who are sexually exploited is not insignificant. Boys have many of the same risk factors, vulnerabilities, experiences, and consequences that girls experience, yet services are largely lacking. Furthermore, research and solid data, which will inform prevention, prosecution, and interventions are lacking on the subject. Why isn’t there more attention to this topic? 
Culturally we are more inclined to see girls as victims. Shame and ignorance have hidden the extent of the problem of sexual abuse of boys and we lack the skills and resources to respond. -Talmage Payne, CEO Hagar International
There exists a subtle yet pervasive ignorance that it does happen to boys. Boys are thought to be resilient, able to take care of themselves, and are not thought to be vulnerable. Because of this, boys may fear being labeled weak, or a homosexual, and so the problem tends to be unreported. This oversight regarding boys contributes to their vulnerability because there is a huge gap in prevention and protection interventions.
A social stigma factor among some prevents us from seeing the humanity of “the other”. How long did it take evangelicals – and we are not fully there yet – to see women prostitutes as real and very broken people? Perhaps some Christians don’t want to get near the edge of the slippery slope of homosexuality. The boys who prostitute themselves aren’t necessarily homosexuals and not necessarily confused about their gender identity. I know one 16 year old boy whose girlfriend is pregnant and the team is working with them on ways to make their family safer and stronger.
Prostitution is a way to make money, and boys fall prey to and become consumed by the same kinds of lies that girls in prostitution do. Many issues are different, but many are the same. To adequately address this issue requires a MUCH longer discussion than this blog post, but I’ll make the brief point here and let you ponder and explore that one on your own. Feel free to post questions or comments as well.

Meet some precious boys in this short but solemn documentary about prostituted boys in Bangkok: Underage.

Common medical issues of the boys reported by Urban Light staff include routine problems such as the common cold and infected insect bites; but also include drug (usually heroin or methamphetamine “yaa baa“) and alcohol misuse, sexually transmitted infections, mental health problems, and other “occupational” hazards. Unfortunately, many boys are reluctant to seek treatment at a hospital. I hope they will be willing to attend this low-pressure, non-invasive consultation at at familiar place: the Urban Light outreach center.

Organizations (that I’m aware of off the top of my head) that are specifically addressing issues of boys include: Love 146 (Cambodia, India), Hagar (Cambodia), First Step (Cambodia), Urban Light (Thailand), and Emmaus Ministries (Chicago). I’m sure there is more – at least I hope so! These are the ones with whom I have been directly involved or know them personally.
If you want to read more on the subject, here are a few recommendations:
  • “What About Boys?”, about sexually exploited boys in Cambodia.  is also doing some exploratory studies in India about boys and transgenders.
  •  “I Never thought It Could Happen to Boys”, An exploratory study on abuse and exploitation of boys in Cambodia.
  • The Heartbreaker a gripping thriller by Susan Howatch about a male (not a boy) prostitute caught up in a twisted, slave-like situation. It is fiction, not an academic paper, but the story is nevertheless profound.
  • Remember the boy Hassan in The Kite Runner?

2 thoughts on “Regarding Boys

  1. Pingback: more than just a medical clinic… « redeeming2011

  2. Katherine, you are truly remarkable. Thankyou for sharing the story of boys who are also in need of advocacy, love and justice, but who we often think are tough, resilient and able to cope. What you and the team brought to Urban Light today was so precious. Thankyou for truly listening – to their medical concerns and to their hearts. Much more than just some medical consultations took place today in our table tennis table, paper and sticky-tape consulting rooms today! 🙂 Be encouraged!

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