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Understanding Child Prostitution in Malawi: A Participatory Approach

NKHOMA, PEARSON (2017) Understanding Child Prostitution in Malawi: A Participatory Approach. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Despite being a topic of concern globally, child prostitution is understood neither comprehensively nor critically. In particular, there have been few attempts to develop any depth of understanding of child prostitution in sub-Saharan Africa. Current understandings are largely based on adult perspectives while children and young people’s own experiences of involvement have been marginalized. The study draws on theoretical approaches of children’s rights, radical and liberal feminism, structure and agency, and the Capability Approach, to examine decisions made by children within particular economic, social and cultural structures. Using a participatory approach, 19 participants used a range of visual methods to create stories of their journeys into prostitution and their day-to-day lives within the institution of prostitution. In this way, they demonstrated their own understandings of their own involvement.

The study reveals the connections between: i) structural factors: patriarchal society, economic poverty, and cultural norms that govern marriage and limit access to education, ii) threats to livelihoods including HIV/AIDS, orphanhood, and climatic shocks that all contribute to constrain the life choices particularly of girls’ and young women. While it is clear that all but one of the participants exercised agency in deciding to engage in prostitution as a means of survival, they showed how involvement in prostitution further constrained their freedom to live lives that they valued. Describing experiences they endured as ‘being less than human’, they extended understanding of child prostitution by drawing attention to the complex nature of the phenomenon.

The thesis ends by recommending a multi-dimensional policy approach to address child prostitution, making suggestions for further research including a deeper understanding of the demand side of prostitution, and recommends the use of the Capability Approach to illuminate questions of human development, human rights and social justice among other marginalized populations in developing countries.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Children, participation, gender, Child Prostitution, young people, Convention on the Rights of the Child, development, participatory research, Capability Approach, ambiguous agency, power dynamics, children’s rights
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Applied Social Sciences, School of
Thesis Date:2017
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:04 May 2017 11:24

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