'Missing youth' : a discourse analysis of policy formulation on 'child prostitution'
Contemporary policy critics note that the concept of 'youth' is of limited use and is 'disappearing as a meaningful social category' (Jeffs and Smith 1999: 46). This thesis argues that although the concept of 'youth' is flawed, without 'youth' young people may be infantilised in policy formulation through being represented and managed as children. In order to argue that the concept of 'youth' is both meaningful and useful recent policy formulation on 'child prostitution' will be analysed. Throughout the 1990s Barnardo's, the Children's Society and radical feminists campaigned to redefine acts of prostitution by under-eighteens as 'child sexual abuse', and used social policy legislation to implement this discursive shift. Representations of 'stolen childhood', predatory boyfriends and dangerous paedophiles were strategically deployed to influence policy formulation. The campaign was successful in changing Government policy and criminal law, including Safeguarding Children Involved In Prostitution (Department of Health 2000) and the Sexual Offences Act 2003. This thesis traces this legislative and policy change through undertaking a sociological discourse analysis. A range of texts and representations including campaign materials, annual reports, media representations, academic research and policy documents, are analysed to illustrate how particular sexual stories and images, moral rhetoric, truth claims and erasures were utilised in this campaign. In order to understand the processes of categorical construction a micro-analysis of the narratives, metaphors, images and presentation styles deployed by policy campaigners is undertaken. It concludes that the discursive framing of child victims of sexual abuse in contemporary policy formulation on 'child prostitution' marginalises youth policy concerns and youth protection strategies, and is counter-productive for some young people. This is why 'youth' is a necessary concept to hold onto when formulating policy to meet the welfare needs of both children and young people.