This morning I woke up and saw our gardner Putu coming out of the forest (the forest is about seven metres away from our house) with a couple of papayas in his hand. He waved at me and said “Breakfast!”.
Seeing Putu emerging from the impenetrable Indonesian forest with his breakfast (he gets paid and has access to grocery stores in the village, if he picks papayas it’s because he wants to, not because he’s forced to) made me think about the concept of beauty.
And because I haven’t written on my blog for the past week, due to the fact that I crossed the world twice for a job interview, living the “never saying no” to the fullest -the peak of which was spending the night in a Chinese brothel in Rome-, I thought I could re-start by writing about beauty.
But then I open the Italian newspaper I read every morning and the breaking news is that a couple of teenagers have been reported to social services as they were two “baby prostitutes”. Of course their “pimp” was sent to jail as was the mother of one of the two, who had been allegedly exploiting her daughter for years. Several professionals have been called in by the police for questioning.
And there goes the inner peace of seeing Putu with his papayas from the forest…
Child prostitution in Italy has been a problem since I was a teenager. Cases like this one come out with a blast because they are huge, because there is a criminal system behind them that exploits underage girls. In this particular case two troublesome, rebellious children whose families could not provide sufficient money for their hobbies or grant enough freedom decided to exchange sexual favours for money. After a while a man heard of them and suggested he could rent an apartment in his name for them, provided he got a commission. They found clients by themeselves or though Mirko, the pimp. Middle aged, wealthy men who required expressely “young girls, very young if possible”.
This is what happened.
The mother of one of the older girl didn’t know anything, the mother of the other girl was handed piles of Euros every week to pay for the treatments her other son needed. No questions asked. One mother is at home and the other in jail, allegedly for having exploited her daughter. When the police asked her where she thought her daughter got the money from she candidly answered “I thought she sold drugs, not something this big…”
So, this is wrong on so many levels I’m not even sure where I should start… I’m not a parent and I don’t know how hard it is to raise a child, especially a troublesome one and especially on your own. I’m not judging the quality of parenthood here but the bad faith involved: your thirteen years old daughter gives you on average 300 Euros a day and you don’t ask where they come from? Your fourteen years old daughter stops talking to you, locks herself in her room for days on end (chatting with strangers) and only gets out of it to go out and come back at dawn and you have nothing to say about it? Coz I got grounded for a looooooot less…
According to the reports the two girls were not scared of being taken away from their families or their homes but kept asking about their money, if they got to keep it and if they could go back to their work.
Sexual exploitation and child abuse are horrible things. But I think that what happened here is a lot worse. These two girls were not given an “armour” by their parents to face life, they were left, figuratively, naked against the world. And yes, trading sex is a means of survival, but I think that the Italian media here focused on the tip of the iceberg. When teenagers decide to sell their bodies and negotiate the price of their childhood with fifty year olds the problem of “sex” is really marginal. Of course, for our media it isn’t because we are a Catholic country and this whole thing happened in Rome.
Sex is sin and both victims and perpetrators are sinners. We read about these girls with morbidity, we want to know all the details, not because they were abused but because they decided to go down this road. As we read greedily we are almost disappointed there is not an illegitimate child involved… And as we engage in a witch hunt on the newspapers and in TV shows we forget that these girls were victims long before someone took their virginity, long before they arranged a meeting with a man with grey hair who had daughters their age and long before they were approached by Mirko, their pimp.
Both girls were brought up by their mothers, and I think that a lot of single parents do an amazing job at raising their children, you don’t necessarily need a father or a mother, but you do need balance. You need someone to teach you what’s right and what’s wrong, someone you decorate a Christmas tree with, someone who shows you pictures of your grandparents and tells you how they met. The family is the first safety net around a child, if the family fails to protect, teach, support, how can a modern Mowgli survive in the jungle?
Growing up without a parent doesn’t mean you are scarred for life, but the other parent should provide a sort of stability that the two mothers of Rome evidently couldn’t provide. The system, always so prone to judge and look at single parents from head to toe when something goes wrong, should have supported them, it should have prevented this from happening.
Once again I’m angry at my country for being unable to tell things as they are. These two girls who think they are in control because they have old men willing to pay to own them for a couple of hours are Victims. With a capital V. The media have defined them as vicitims, adding a pinch of salt to their story by explaining in detail how they were in charge, what they did and how much they charged.
When you are thirteen you are not in charge. Of anything. You may think you are, because you set the price, but this doesn’t justify those who feast on your convinctions, because your convictions are wrong.
These two unfortunate girls are those who gambled big and lost big, but Italian midlle and secondary schools are filled with teenagers who have a wrong and often dangerous perception of sex as a means of transaction. My vagina is worth this much.
Is this right? Is this fair? I don’t know know but this seems to be what we, older generations, have taught them. We live in a country where our former Prime Minister hosted parties in the basement of his villa where underage prostitutes, dancers, parliamentarians dressed up as nuns and Greek goddesses to entertain him and his friends. All these gorgeous, young women, when asked why they slept with a nearly eighty year old man answered: for money, for a part in a movie, for a seat in the Parliament.
Of this happy carnival no one is in jail. Not even the guy who used public money to finance it. If this is the example we give we are not entitled to be outraged at two teenagers trying to improve their miserable lives by using the same means that landed other women in Parliament.