Children in prostitution : a study of young women in the rehabilitation centres in Malaysia
Child prostitution has been a major cause of concern in recent years. It is a global phenomenon, which has spread widely in both developing and developed countries. In Malaysia, child prostitution does exist, but it is a phenomenon that the public does not really acknowledge or understand. This study is an attempt to investigate the nature of child prostitution in Malaysia and to identify the key characteristics of victimized children to raise awareness of the phenomenon in the public, government, and NGOs. Two methods of data collection were used in this study; that is semi-structured interview and narrative interview. Altogether, 63 young women safeguarded from prostitution in two rehabilitation centres participated in this study as respondents. The findings suggest that the vast majority of prostituted young women in this sample are likely to: have experienced family dysfunction, family breakdown or domestic violence; be emotionally and physically abused during childhood; suffer from family problems and poor relationship with the family; leave school and home at an early age; and be sexually abused or exploited before they were drawn into prostitution. Ninety-two percent of the respondents entered prostitution between the ages of 13 to 17 years old. The youngest was nine years old. About 48 percent were engaged in prostitution after being deceived by 'boyfriends' who really acting as pimps and 38.1 percent were influenced by peers. Most of them 'served' sex to between 6-10 men per day, 'worked' seven days a week, and were abused by pimps and customers. About 83 percent used drugs, most commonly psychotropic pills and marijuana. The vast majority of them did not use any contraception during prostitution. Implications of the findings are discussed and suggestions made for an effective response to the problem and in aiding the young women in prostitution and the rehabilitation centres, as well as for further research.