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Promoting Informed Action

SUBJECT: JUVENILE PROSTITUTION IN COOPERATION WITH: MARIE-MARTHE COUSINEAU, UNIVERSITÉ DE MONTRÉAL ÉVELYNE FLEURY, CENTRE JEUNESSE DE MONTRÉAL

Introduction

Definition of prostitution and juvenile prostitution Prostitution is the practice of engaging in sexual activity in exchange for money, property or services, mainly for reasons other than satisfying one's own sexual or emotional needs.12 This definition includes not only street prostitution, the most visible form of prostitution, but also several other types of activities related to sex work: erotic massage, escort services, nude dancing and lap dancing, pornographic photography, telephone sex services, and cybersex, a more recent phenomenon. The term juvenile prostitution is used when prostitutes are minors, which in Québec means under 18 years old. Although the age of majority varies from one province to another and from one country to another, juvenile prostitution is considered illegal in Québec, as elsewhere in the world.9 The key players involved in prostitution Prostitution inevitably involves two main groups: prostitutes, the majority of whom are women, and their clients, who are almost exclusively men. Often, a third type of protagonist is also involved: the pimp, or procurer, or any other person who profits from prostitution.6 In keeping with the general image, pimps can be unscrupulous individuals who profit from and live on the avails of prostitution of women they have seduced into becoming prostitutes. This type of procurer is called a coercive pimp. Pimps can also be drug dealers, the owners of dance bars or escort services, "sugar daddies," or even the spouses of prostitutes. Since such individuals facilitate and even encourage prostitution, they are referred to as "support pimps." Each of them profit from the sexual activities of women in their own particular way.6

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Legal framework Canada's Criminal Code does not directly condemn people who engage in prostitution or work as professional prostitutes. However, it does criminalize prostitution-related activities: frequenting a "common bawdy-house;" taking or transporting a person to a "common bawdy-house;" living on the avails of prostitution of a person who is under 18 years of age or encouraging such a person to engage in prostitution; knowingly allowing, as the owner, occupier, manager or person in charge of access to or the use of a place, anyone under the age of 18 to engage in sexual activities in that place for remuneration; and lastly, obtaining for consideration or communicating with anyone for the purpose of obtaining consideration for the sexual services of a minor.7-10 These offences are liable to prison terms of 5 to 14 years.7 Since the tabling of the Badgley Report (1985), still the most comprehensive study of juvenile prostitution conducted in Canada to date, the Fraser Report (1986) and, more recently, the report of the Comité montréalais sur la prostitution de rue et la prostitution juvénile (1999), juvenile prostitution has been considered a form of child sexual abuse. In Québec, minors who are found guilty of prostitution-related activities subject to sanctions under Canada's Criminal Code can be taken charge of under the federal Youth Criminal Justice Act. In addition, some young people who engage in prostitution may be taken charge of under Québec's Youth Protection Act if their safety or development is considered compromised.

Scope of the problem in Québec

No reliable data are currently available on the real scope of juvenile prostitution in Québec. Nonetheless, with the assistance of agencies that help juvenile prostitutes, it has been estimated that roughly 4 000 girls and boys between the ages of 12 to 25 engage in such activities in Montréal alone.9 There is reason to believe, however, owing to the clandestine nature of sex work, that this figure is very conservative.

Scope of the problem elsewhere

Juvenile prostitution is a global problem.9 However, not all countries pay equal attention to it. According to a conservative estimate, one million children and adolescents are involved in prostitution worldwide.9 Throughout the world as well, there are well-developed networks that offer sexual tourism to people who have a sexual preference for children.

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Defining the problem: limits imposed by its clandestine and illegal nature

Juvenile prostitution is hard to define because it is an illegal activity that is carried out in secret. For example, youth who engage in prostitution tend to hide their real age. In addition, some young people simply do not see themselves as prostitutes since they do not solicit clients on the street but participate in activities related to escort services, massage parlours, nude dancing, photography, telephone sex, or cybersex. As well, some young girls who are romantically involved with their pimps do not consider that they are engaging in prostitution but that they are "helping" their friend, lover or fiancé deal with temporary financial difficulties. The existence of highly organized juvenile prostitution rings that are unknown or little known to authorities makes it even more difficult to identify young people who are involved in this type of activity. Like individuals, these rings operate in secret, communicating with members by Internet, telephone, cell phone or pager. In short, they take advantage of all the possibilities offered by new communication technologies.10

Female prostitution versus male prostitution

Even though juvenile prostitution is traditionally associated with girls, recent studies have shown that boys also take part in fairly large numbers in this kind of activity. Although such boys are often heterosexual, they offer sexual services primarily to men. As for the girls, they engage mostly in heterosexual activities, but may be called on to participate in same-sex relations, particularly when they offer their services to heterosexual couples, act in pornographic films or perform erotic dances. Another difference between male and female juvenile prostitutes is that boys seem to engage in prostitution for a shorter period of time than girls, essentially because clients seek young boys rather than older ones.8 Lastly, boys work almost exclusively on their own or with the help of support pimps, while girls work more often with coercive pimps.9

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Profile of juvenile prostitutes

It is very difficult to characterize or to make generalizations about juvenile prostitutes, and even more difficult to identify the factors that prompt them to enter prostitution. The decision to become involved in this type of activity seems to be motivated by the interplay of a host of personal and contextual factors, which manifest themselves to highly varying degrees in different people.7 Nevertheless, some factors seem to be common to most youth who participate in the sex trade. In general, these young people have been raised in difficult family environments, characterized by violence, interpersonal conflict, and frequent recourse to foster homes or rehabilitation centres, with the result that they have major emotional deficits. In addition, several have suffered academic failures, which have led them to drop out of school. Often, they have become sexually active at an early age and, in some cases, have been victims of intra- or extra-family sexual abuse. Generally speaking, these young people are from poor backgrounds.8

Entry into the sex trade

It is hard to determine the age at which young people first become involved in prostitution. Depending on the author, it varies from 10 to 17, with girls starting at an average of 15 to 17 years old and boys at an average of age 14.7 Entry into the sex trade can be prompted by a multitude of factors specific to the life of each young person. For some youth, prostitution is a means of survival and a way of making money quickly, while for others, it is a means of contesting or escaping family problems, acquiring greater self-esteem or prestige, or even obtaining material objects that afford them a certain social status.7, 13 For the majority of young people, prostitution is simply a means of satisfying basic unfulfilled needs.9 In certain cases, young people begin prostitution activities after running away; they end up begging on the street and are then approached by people who ask them to have sexual relations in exchange for money. Other youth are led to prostitution by friends or family members who already use this activity to support themselves. Still others enter prostitution because they need to buy and take drugs. Drug use can then become a consequence of prostitution-related activities and play a key role in keeping adolescents in the sex trade.6 This situation can be described as a circular relationship, where one activity, drug use, leads to prostitution, which in turn leads back to drug use.2 Becoming involved with criminal gangs is another, more and more frequently mentioned gateway to the world of juvenile female prostitution. In such cases, young vulnerable girls in search of love and often lacking in self-confidence are approached by one or more members of criminal gangs. At first, the girls are richly rewarded both materially and emotionally, and then gradually, they are encouraged to engage in sex-trade-related activities so as to become a source of economic gain for the gang.10

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Level of involvement in prostitution

The degree to which youth become involved in prostitution varies widely from one person to the next. Prostitutes can be divided into four categories depending on their level of involvement:7 · · · · Those for whom prostitution is an occupation and who see themselves as professional prostitutes Those for whom prostitution is a regular but part-time activity Those who live on the street and for whom prostitution is a means of survival, along with other illegal activities such as theft or drug trafficking Those who engage in prostitution occasionally or only in certain situations (e.g. when they are short of money)

Places where juvenile prostitution occurs

In Québec, juvenile prostitution is encountered mainly in Montréal, Québec City and medium-sized cities such as Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières, Drummondville and Hull. Sometimes, however, young people in small towns also engage in prostitution. Because juvenile prostitution is illegal and subject to such severe sanctions, very few clients are solicited directly on the street. Indeed, most juvenile prostitution takes place out of sight. This is especially true in small towns, where it can be difficult to remain anonymous.8 Male juvenile prostitution seems to be concentrated in Montréal's gay village, where the boys involved sometimes offer their services on the street or work for escort agencies, dance bars, saunas or massage parlours.9 In the case of girls, prostitution venues seem to be much less centralized. Indeed, they are scattered about, often in so-called safe areas (bars and cafes), on various streets, in nude dancing establishments, massage parlours and escort agencies.1, 9 Youth from the different regions of Québec who run away to Montréal often resort to prostitution to support themselves. On the other hand, young people involved in prostitution rings frequently go to the regions when they decide to run away. In fact, gang recruitment of prostitutes now seems to be expanding into the regions.

Consequences of juvenile prostitution

Youth who engage in prostitution suffer numerous consequences. However, the types of consequences vary significantly depending largely on the young person's age, personal characteristics, the amount of time he or she has been involved in prostitution, his or her level of involvement in such activities, and the environment in which he or she lives. Generally speaking, young people end up with health problems, which can be attributed to a range of factors: lack of sleep,

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poor diet, stress, drug and alcohol abuse, high exposure to hepatitis, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), early or unwanted pregnancies, violence-related injuries, and so forth. From a psychological standpoint, the self-esteem of juvenile prostitutes can be undermined by social stigmatization, the judgment of family and friends, the fact of being valued only for sex, and the climate of violence surrounding prostitution activities, and this in turn can lead to depression, social isolation and even suicidal thoughts. Over the longer term, young people who participate in prostitution can suffer from sexual and emotional desensitization as well as sexual dysfunction.9 Violence, in various forms, is a problem that not only affects, but is a constant threat to juvenile prostitutes. These young people work in an environment that makes them ready targets of theft, sexual assault and other acts of violence, even murder. Indeed, they frequent high-crime areas, are active mainly at night, deal with strangers on a regular basis, handle large sums of money, and so forth.8

Effective strategies for preventing juvenile prostitution or promoting solutions

First of all, prevention activities must target all young people and provide them with a range of options for satisfying their basic needs. For example, youth community initiatives related to the overall development and well-being of young people must be maintained or else introduced where needed. More specifically, prevention strategies must target the development of skills associated with the various aspects of sexuality and relationships. Programs or interventions concerning issues such as values, love, friendship, respect, intimacy, sexual relations and egalitarian relationships will enable youth to reflect, be better informed and better equipped. They will then be able to make enlightened choices not only with respect to their sexuality and sexual behaviour but also in regard to their interpersonal relationships and self-respect. They will also be able to recognize more easily various forms of exploitation and abuse and be more capable of protecting themselves.7 In particular, prevention programs must address the question of gang recruitment of young girls. In addition, they should not only target young people, but also involve families, schools, youth services and resources intended for prostitutes. When it comes to intervening with youth involved in prostitution activities, numerous resources in Québec follow an approach based on principles of harm reduction: in other words, they are intended first and foremost to decrease the risks associated with prostitution (violence, STIs/HIV, exploitation, etc.) rather than simply to put a stop to such activities or impose sanctions.7 However, complete cessation of prostitution is also a goal, and may be desired by a young person or be necessary for his or her protection. To approach juvenile prostitutes and ensure they do not become distrustful of adults and organizations trying to help them, it is essential to concentrate on developing programs offering counselling, education, labour market integration and housing services, as well as support for young people trying

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to leave prostitution.7 Usually, such initiatives are implemented through street workers or community organizations and are designed to achieve a range of objectives, such as:9 · · · · · · · · · Creating alliances with young people and taking the time to get to know them Encouraging them to make use of their strengths and believe in themselves Talking to them about sexual education, sexual health, and healthy, egalitarian relationships Teaching them ways to reduce the risk of violence, drug and alcohol abuse, STIs and HIV Discussing not only the negative consequences of sexuality and prostitution, but looking at the situation objectively Developing receptive and non-judgmental attitudes towards young people and their milieu Refraining from considering them as sexual objects or prostitutes Promoting interventions by non-institutional community organizations, which are more accessible to youth Encouraging young people to find satisfying alternatives to prostitution, bearing in mind that this activity allows them to meet basic unfulfilled needs

As with all youth interventions, it is crucial to strive for joint initiatives involving the various organizations that work with young people, so as to profit from the expertise of each organization and develop more effective follow-up as well as responses better adapted to youth needs. For example, it is essential to include juvenile-prostitution-related initiatives that can be carried out by police departments, school services, social service authorities, community and health agency representatives, parents' groups, youth and the general community.7 In short, actions must be truly concerted.

Specific evaluation tools

It is now recognized that all prevention and intervention programs designed to address social problems should undergo evaluations. Such assessments may be carried out at various stages of a project and thus target different objectives. For example, they can be designed to: 1. Determine whether there is really a need for a program by defining the scope of the problem and taking stock of the situation 2. Determine whether information is communicated properly during the program's implementation, is understood and achieves the objectives set 3. Assess the level of satisfaction of the people targeted by the program 4. Determine whether the objectives set at the beginning of the program have been met It is strongly recommended that outside experts, i.e. private firms, academics or student researchers, be asked to conduct such evaluations. However, regardless of whether the latter are done internally by program proponents or externally by outside experts, they must always involve the following steps:

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1. Consult the documents that define the program and the personnel assigned to it, so as to ensure that the program's activities coincide with the original objectives. 2. Carry out documentary research to determine if other similar programs have been evaluated elsewhere and if the evaluation procedures can be reused for the program under consideration. 3. Clearly define the questions that are to be addressed by the evaluation, for it is generally impossible to cover all of the factors that determine the effectiveness of interventions. 4. Choose an appropriate methodology. 5. Operationalize the dimensions that are to be evaluated. 6. Prepare the measurement tool that is to be used. 7. Gather data with that tool. 8. Process and analyze the data. 9. Draw lessons from the experience. 10. Publicize the lessons. Various parameters must be taken into account in all evaluations carried out in connection with juvenile prostitution, be it to assess the scope of a law, a policy or a guideline, to verify the need for and merits of an action being planned, or to assess the results of a prevention or intervention program: 1. The gender of the people involved 2. Their level of involvement in prostitution 3. The particular places in which they engage in such activities (large cities or small towns) and the resources available in these places

Specific prevention and intervention tools

Links to prevention and intervention tools concerned with juvenile prostitution

Web sites

Links to interesting Web sites on juvenile prostitution

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References

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Blais, M., Goulet, J. & Renaud, A.-M. (1998). La prostitution juvénile. Recherches en bref. Université Laval and Association des Centres jeunesse de Québec, 13: 1-6. Brochu, S. (1995). Drogues et criminalité. Montréal: Les Presses de l'Université de Montréal. Committee on Sexual Offences Against Children and Youth (Badgley Committee) (1984). Sexual Offences Against Children in Canada. Ottawa: Supply and Services Canada, 2 volumes. Special Committee on Pornography and Prostitution (Fraser Committee) (1985). Pornography and Prostitution in Canada. Ottawa: Supply and Services Canada. Comité montréalais sur la prostitution de rue et la prostitution juvénile (1999). Rapport du comité montréalais sur la prostitution de rue et la prostitution juvénile. Montréal: Le comité. Conseil du statut de la femme (2002). Is Prostitution Work or Exploitation? Further Consideration is Needed (summary of research). Gouvernement du Québec. [ Information sheet ] [ PDF file ] 7. Cousineau, M.-M., Hamel, S., Poupart, P. & Gagnon, C. (2003). Récits d'expérience de jeunes prostitués, garçons et filles, en vue de l'élaboration d'un plan d'action : Ébauche d'une recension critique des écrits. Montréal: International Centre for Comparative Criminology and Institut de recherche pour le développement social des jeunes. 8. Cousineau, M.-M., Hamel, S., Gagnon, C., Meeson, J.-S., Courchesne, A., Daoust Charland (2004). Récits d'expérience de jeunes prostitués, garçons et filles, en vue de l'élaboration d'un plan d'action. Montréal: Institut de recherche pour le développement social des jeunes and International Centre for Comparative Criminology. Research report in preparation, to be submitted to the National Crime Prevention Centre. Durocher, L., Fleury, É., Berthiaume, P., & Moïse, J. (2002). La prostitution juvénile, quoi de neuf? Défi jeunesse, vol 9, no 1, November 23-30. [ Information sheet ] Fleury, É. & Fredette, C. (2002). Le silence de Cendrillon, Prostitution juvénile par les gangs : Guide d'animation et d'accompagnement de la bande dessinée. Montréal: Centre jeunesse de Montréal ­ Institut universitaire, Régie régionale de la santé et des services sociaux de Montréal-Centre, Ville de Montréal. 11. Federal/Provincial/Territorial Working Group on Prostitution (1998). Report and Recommendations in respect of Legislation, Policy and Practices Concerning ProstitutionRelated Activities. Department of Justice Canada. 12. 13. Hannigan, P. (1997). La jeunesse en difficulté. Québec : Les presses de l'Université du Québec. Cited in Durocher, L., Fleury, É., Berthiaume, P., & Moïse, J. (2002). Moïse, J. (2002). Adolescence, initiation et prostitution. Montréal: Édition du Mistral.

9. 10.

Written by: Jasline Flores Revised by: Marie-Ève Lemieux Breton, November 2005

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