by Kimberly Allen R.N.
In the wake of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d bring up an issue that hits very close to home for me. I was originally inspired by an article I saw about celebrity breakups and it mentioned the split between Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore. I normally don’t care about such pop culture trivias, but in Honduras, where I live, Kutcher and Moore have a more important societal role in the form of their organization that fights child prostitution – Real Men Don’t Buy Girls, a public service campaign that uses celebrities to persuade men out of using child prostitutes.
Most of us know there are countries where there are no ‘women’s rights’ and no child protective services. They have no laws to protect women and children so technically they have no rights, but what about the countries that do have laws to protect women and children but have no enforcement of those laws? In the country where I’ve been volunteering they have strict laws, but no enforcement. I’ve been told there are many reasons for this. It doesn’t matter the reason, it still leaves the women and children, especially young girls unprotected. The biggest problems as you would expect are in the rural areas, the jungle. Though the jungle may have the most problems they’re also in the cities. Here there is no social services or programs to assist women and children, they are expected to take care of themselves however they can. By law, or lack there of the men are not held responsible for the care of “their” children. It is strictly the mother’s responsibility to provide food and shelter for “their” children. This leaves a gaping hole in society.
Everyday I see at least 2 mothers that are still children themselves and should be in school walking thru the neighborhood dragging their 1 or 2 yr old with them going door to door looking for work or hand outs. The first time I saw one of these young ‘women’ that are in reality only girls, she couldn’t have been more than 15 yrs old. I was stunned by her age and that she had a 2yr old boy. Again, I talked with the retired Dr that I work with about it. He was not surprised and said it’s very common in the poor areas. They pack into the dirt floor huts made of tin roofing with no lights, no beds or furniture and sleep on top of each other on the floor. Most of the time no one is really sure who’s even there. The men of the family or whoever happens to be there that night take what they want, when they want and fro whomever they want. It doesn’t matter if it’s a child or not, because they know they can without fear of reprisal.
This behavior leads to long-term repercussions. To begin with there is little or no use of birth control and no use of protection against STD’s. Many young girls have had multiple sexual partners by the time they reach puberty. All without protection or education. Sex education is virtually unheard of. Some become pregnant at a very young age and many have contracted some form of STD and do not receive treatment. Still others realize that in the city they can make money doing what they’ve always been forced to do. The Dr I work with told me about an incident he witnessed at a local store parking lot. A missionary was scolding a young girl for her activities as a prostitute. The girl looked at the missionary and said “well, at least when I come here I get paid, at home my father and brothers don’t pay me they just take it for free”. The missionary stopped berating her and left. Most of these girls have little or no education and young children to feed. Cleaning and sex are all they know, and there are not nearly enough cleaning jobs.
There are several different organizations that do try to help these girls. Some are ‘rescued’ but by then they have already suffered significant abuse. They are then placed in orphanages, and as it is everywhere some are good and some not so good. Adoption is illegal here so the orphanage is their only option. Whether good or bad all the orphanages provide an education to their children. Unfortunately, many of the girls suffer from PTSD and not all receive any treatment. As a result many end up pregnant and then have to leave the orphanage with no where to go repeating the cycle. There are very few if any homes for pregnant teens here.
For more information about Real Men Don’t Buy Girls, visit the Demi and Ashton Foundation Website www.demiandashton.org/realmen.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org