By Leah Malone on June 23, 201, for Minivan News—
“Child prostitution in Laamu Atoll has become so “common” the underage victims of such crimes consider it “normal”, a private clinical psychologist has revealed to Minivan News.
The practice, believed by multiple sources interviewed by Minivan News to be prevalent across the Maldives, ranges from male benefactors grooming children with ‘gifts’ to parents actively selling the sexual services of their children – some as young as 12.
Acknowledgement of “systemic” child sexual abuse in the Maldives, particularly prostitution, remains highly taboo, with few government institutions willing to confront the problem.
Minister of Gender, Family and Human Rights Azima Shukoor made the first official acknowledgement of the practice in a statement to mark Children’s Day on May 10.
“The abuse of children is on the rise. Children being used as sex workers, where the children are sent to places as a means to pleasure people and to gain an income from such a trade. This is being practiced in the Maldives today. Both boys and girls are being used in this trade,” she stated.
Consultant Clinical Psychologist Maldives Institute for Psychological Services, Training & Research (MIPSTAR), Dr Aishath Ali Naaz, conducts psychological profiling of sexual abuse victims, as well as preventative awareness workshops, and recently completed a study focusing on Laamu Atoll.
She explained that child prostitution has become so common among minors that it is considered a normal activity, with victims even boasting about their sexual exploits at school.
“When many people do something it’s not [considered] wrong anymore. In some atolls I’ve seen this, especially in Laamu Atoll. It’s not accepted by the whole population but [it is] among the young people,” she told Minivan News.
“The children say in class ‘So you do it, you do it too, and so on, so what’s the big deal?’” Dr Naaz explained. “Some children have accepted this as something normal and as a way of life.”
Child prostitution is considered a type of sexual abuse because victims are minors under 18 years-old.
“It’s not just incest, which is happening, because in my practice I have come across cases of close relatives [who] have pushed children into prostitution,” Dr Naaz said. “Children as young as 12 or 13 years-old have been forced to partake in sexual activities,” explained Dr Naaz.
“This is sexual abuse, but people are not aware that there is sometimes monetary gain for somebody,” she added.
“Child prostitution is happening in a very subtle way. Most of the time there is an adult who is pushing the child; it may be a parent or a relative who is pimping the child,” said Dr Naaz.”
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