Bangkok (AsiaNews) – The pedophilia cases that appear from time to time in Western newspapers do not show how widespread the phenomenon is. According to the victims themselves, boys as young as 10 to 12 years of age, pedophilia is growing by leaps and bounds. The leading role is now played by young, “18- to 20-year-old northern Europeans”, especially Swedes, who come to Thailand seeking sex with young males but who also sell themselves to adult males and even Thai women. “How did Europe fall so low?” asks Fr Adriano Pelosin. For the past 27 years the PIME missionary has worked in a Bangkok suburb with orphans and abandoned boys and girls. His home is Nothambury (Pak Kret district), located some 25 kilometres from the centre of the capital. In addition to rescuing young people from the streets he is involved in programmes to prevent prostitution and provide help to children traumatised by such an experience.
“Apart from the fact that their bodies have been used and abuse to make money, the challenge,” Father Adriano said, “is to help these kids regain a sense of their own dignity.”
Using loving care to help young people overcome the identity crisis that comes from the commodification of their bodies is important but not enough. For Father Pelosin Europe must tackle the issue by rebuilding its own families. The Old World is facing a moral crisis that has reached proportions worthy the “Late Roman Empire.”
Here is what Fr Adriano Pelosin told AsiaNews:
Our association is responsible for 110 children and another 105 have been placed in six foster homes. Some are just babes and in the care of some elderly women. They all come from broken families: drug-addicted parents, under-aged mothers (14-15-year-old), parents living with HIV-AIDS or dead as a result of the disease, or parents in prison and thus unable to care for them. We bring them together in foster homes and surround them with a loving environment.
Many of our children have been taken out of the prostitution business. Some came to us telling us about their experiences as child prostitutes, some as early as 10 or 12 years of age. Some had already been in Pattaya, Thailand’s sex trade capital.
Their stories are sad. Little children, especially boys, sell themselves to Italian, German and especially Swedish tourists. There is a virtual invasion of Swedes and Norwegians looking for a child prostitute for sex. And they pay well.
In taking them in, we help them avoid falling back into the trap. Sadly given the easy money for this type of work, Thais don’t understand; they are very weak. The problem of broken families is another handicap. Some kids who lived with grandparents or with an uncle or an aunt left because of mistreatment, considered second class children. For them prostitution became a way out of such an environment.
Our fight means helping children, working on prevention, teaching families in shanty towns so that children and adults not allow such things to happen.
Those who go through prostitution and pedophilia come out scarred. After making so much money the children are under the impression that that is all they are worth. They end up having a positive view about prostitution. They tell themselves: I am worth something because I can sell myself. In this job I can get lots of money and have a future. Sadly though their sense of who they are goes into a downward spin since they start to see themselves only as an object, only a piece of merchandise to bought and sold.
It is hard then to turn them away from this world. I had a chance to help a girl who was sold into prostitution by her own parents. After a few years she was detained by the police and since she was under age she was placed in a rehabilitation centre. But even today despite getting married and having children she only sees herself in sexual terms. Even with her husband she values herself only for her sexual performances.
In addition to providing a home to kids, we organise training sessions to raise their awareness about what they went through. Apart from the fact that their bodies have been used and abuse to make money, the challenge is to help these kids regain a sense of their own dignity
I must say we have had a good response. The kids under our care are more stable and in most cases avoid falling back into prostitution. Instead they start to go to school and find a normal job. By contrast, those who do not come under our care are without hope and end up throwing their life away.
The greatest evil comes with these European men who arrive here searching sexual pleasure from children. How can we raise awareness of the problem in Europe so that people don’t come here to abuse locals by taking advantage of their shortcoming and weaknesses? Can’t they find a wife or some company in Europe instead of coming here to buy these kids? It is true that here they find easy prey because of broken families and poverty. But why has Europe fallen so low? Is it because families there have become non existent?
It is important that the mass media not limit themselves to denouncing the problem and put the fiends’ names and pictures on their front pages. They must look at the pain and grave problems that are caused to the children who are used in such a vile fashion, then thrown away like some disposable rag.
For us it is impossible to defend them all. Europe and the world must do something.
Other religious Christian and Buddhist groups are also involved in taking in the children. But the government provides some half-way houses that often are no better than prisons. School teachers take them there.
The more important work is prevention, helping children without a family to become conscious of their situation.
Child abuse seems to have become endemic. A few days ago a girl came to us after her father got her pregnant. He wanted her to have an abortion but she wanted to keep the baby and is now in hospital to give birth at the seventh month of her pregnancy.
Socially, Thailand is permissive and weak. And Westerners take advantage of that situation.
From what the kids tell us, prostitution and pedophilia are up. There is a virtual invasion by northern European men aged 18 to 20 whose arrival has expanded the pedophilia market. Young Swedes come seeking sex with under-aged males but also offer themselves for sell to older males and even Thai women. It is an alarming situation, a throwback to the moral crisis that bedevilled the Late Roman Empire as Saint Augustine wrote.
Here, too, some children, boys and girls, are abducted, forced to work in restaurants, dancing, keep patrons company, taking off their clothes and everything else.