Question from the Audience
I have two questions, one for Grace and one for Ellen. Grace, I'll ask you a question first. You had a very interesting statistic in your documentary but I am not sure to whom this statistic applies, whether it applies just to Indians and Sri Lankans, in India and in Sri Lanka or to the Diaspora in the United States, and that is that the vast majority of child sexual abuse takes place in nuclear families as opposed to joint families. I was wondering if you could talk about that a bit and clarify to whom it applies.
My question to Ellen is that at the beginning of the documentary you showed some information about the ethnic conflict in Burma. I was wondering two things: one is whether the people, who you spoke to, all the young girls you spoke to, were they all from minority communities. If so, what do you think the impact of the conflict is on them? I mean quite apart from what is obvious, which is their economic and political marginalization. Do you think there are other reasons why they seem to constitute the majority of people who are taken to Thailand for prostitution? Thank you.
The study was based on a RAHI study, it is an organization based in Delhi and they did this study in five cities. Delhi, Bombay, Goa, Calcutta and Bangalore, I think, or maybe Madras. I had to figure out whether I wanted to use the statistics because the study was among urban, English-educated, college-educated women and given that sampling population, they would invariably have come from nuclear families but talking with several people, I was surprised. I assumed that it would be higher in extended families. The reason I assumed that was because I thought children would come more into contact with adults in extended families. There would be more opportunity for them to be abused, but talking with people both in Sri Lanka and India, I found that that is not necessarily true. If anything, the statistics may be the same but to assume that children are safer in nuclear families is a myth because just as there might be more opportunity for them to be abused in an extended family, there are also more opportunities for scrutiny and some kind of intervention even if the intervention is not the way we imagine intervention to be. There might be quiet ways of intervening. I might be someone making sure that the child is not around at certain times, making sure that the sleeping arrangements are changed. It is things like that to intervene in extended families, which does not occur in nuclear families.
The vast majority of girls we met were from the minority groups in Burma. Although several of our closest friends were Burmese girls on the border. For some reason, the Burmese girls along the border have a lot more freedom. I think they were a lot more savvy because a lot of them are from Rangoon and are city smart and so they had more freedom in the brothels in the sense that that could sort of, almost, choose, they could choose where they wanted to work. What happens is the agents go deep into the very remote villages to recruit and they found, for example, this ethnic group called the Aka and three of these girls were Aka. They are really tribal people and many of them had not seen an automobile before. Had no electricity in their villages and were pre-literate even in the Aka language. They are also very fair and they are very small and they are very easy to manipulate. They are not street-smart, so that makes them really attractive targets for the agents. They are easy to trick and they are easy to control and so we will be going to brothels where there would probably be fifty to sixty Aka girls, more between twelve and fifteen years old.
Part of the reason why there is greater demand for younger looking girls is because people are very conscious of HIV-AIDS. But rather than the sexual behavior really changing in the Thai population, what is happening is that there is a demand for younger girls. They are considered to be free of HIV. What they are doing now is they spend much shorter times in brothels and then circulating them to different places in Thailand so they are fresh faces. Unfortunately, the supply and the demand problem has not shifted. They have just made a quicker turnover of girls. I don’t know if that answers your question.