The Guardian is still calling child victims of commercial sexual exploitation ‘sex workers’

In an article posted a few days ago, the commercial sexual exploitation of children was referred to as ‘sex work’.

This is far from the first time the Guardian has used this terminology.

I am writing to the Guardian to complain, for all the good it will do. Please feel free to use the below message as a template.

Dear Editors,

I wish to complain about the use of the term ‘sex work’ in a recent article, describing the commercial sexual exploitation of refugee children in Europe (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/30/fears-for-missing-child-refugees).

It is entirely wrong to refer to commercial sexual abuse as ‘work’, no child can legally consent to ‘sex work’ in any part of the world, including in countries that take a decriminalisation approach to prostitution, and being sexually abused is not ‘work’ by any meaningful measure.

By the Guardian’s own guidelines (http://www.theguardian.com/guardian-observer-style-guide-c), ‘child pornography’ should be referred to as child abuse images. Therefore a recording of a ‘child sex worker’ doing ‘sex work’ would be an image of abuse, but the creation of that abuse image would just be ‘work’.

Calling the commercial sexual exploitation of children ‘sex work’ stops it being seen as a sex abuse issue, and reduces it to a labour issue. It also helps to make invisible the adults actually doing the abuse, and the demand for child victims.

These are the emails I am going to send it too:

international@theguardian.com
politics@theguardian.com
guardian.readers@theguardian.com
observer.readers@observer.co.uk

If you are willing to include a name, address, and phone number, a letter to the editor is possible:

observer.letters@observer.co.uk

(although the article was posted on a Saturday, and has ‘theguardian’ in it’s website address, it appears to be an Observer article)

I will update in the unlikely event I get a response.

EDIT: The author is Mark Townsend, and he is on twitter: @townsendmark

If you are on twitter, please ask him why he is referring to child victims of commercial sexual exploitation as ‘sex workers’, and remind him of the Guardian’s guide lines for reporting other forms of child sexual exploitation (http://www.theguardian.com/guardian-observer-style-guide-c)

4 responses

  1. […] Please note, this is the article I complained about yesterday, but I think the information is too important not to re-blog. […]

  2. Interestingly, this is all the Guardian’s style guide has to say on ‘prostitution’:

    When reporting on women and men who work in the sex industry it is Guardian policy that they be identified as individuals first, not by the way they earn money.

    So for example say police are investigating the murder of three women rather than “three prostitutes”

    and they don’t even have an entry on ‘sex work’, so this insistence on calling sexual exploitation, even of children, ‘sex work’, is not openly an official policy.

  3. For reference, in case anything changes:

  4. […] Following on from this post from the beginning of the month, I’m very happy to be able to say that the Observer’s reader’s editor has altered the article, changing it’s sub-heading from “The EU’s criminal intelligence agency warns pan-European gangs are targeting minors for sex work and slavery” to “The EU’s criminal intelligence agency warns pan-European gangs are targeting minors for sex abuse and slavery”, and changed a line in the article from “The police agency has also documented a disturbing crossover between organised gangs helping to smuggle refugees into the EU and human-trafficking gangs exploiting them for sex work and slavery” to “The police agency has also documented a disturbing crossover between organised gangs helping to smuggle refugees into the EU and human-trafficking gangs exploiting them for sex and slavery” […]

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