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The often quoted statistic of 75% of women in prostitution in the UK became involved when they were children, on the face of its a horrific statistic. As you will see, this statistic totally misrepresents the research work by the author Melrose in her paper Ties that Bind – Young people and the prostitution labour market in Britain.
This statistic is purported to be a quote from a paper by Melrose. The quote is a misrepresentation on two levels. Mathematically it is incorrect, and the sample used in the report is not representative.
First they misrepresent the arithmetical calculation to specify 75%. The research was based on a sample of 46 women. Now I quote from the Melrose paper the section where three quarters or 75% is mentioned.
“In fact, approximately two-thirds of participants had become involved before they were sixteen and of these, three-quarters (24) actually became involved when they were 14 or younger.”
That calculation of 75% of 2/3 is actually 50%. The number of women starting prostitution under 14 was 24 out of the sample 46, which is 52%. I agree that is still a disturbing figure, but I want to bring this arithmetical error caused by misquoting the paper to every ones attention.
The killer misrepresentation is the 46 women chosen for this research all had to start working in prostitution under the age of 18.
“The data on which I am drawing in this paper was generated by in-depth interviews with forty-six women, all of whom had become involved in prostitution before they were 18.”
Yes this was a research paper specifically looking into child prostitution and the causes of child prostitution. Seemingly the major recommendations from the report were to look for the root causes, and that was to reduce poverty.
So here we have a sample of women, who have and or currently selling sex, selected because they started in prostitution under 18, 2/3 who started under the age of 16, and 50 percent under the age of 14. This percentage then being used as the age that all women enter into sex work. This is a gross misrepresentation of the good research by Melrose.
The author of the research piece then goes on to suggest ways of tackling this problem
In order to tackle the causes of child prostitution, this author would argue that there is a need to tackle the poverty of the communities from which these young people so often come (Pitts 1997). The social security system, voluntary and statutory social services agencies, the education and youth services need to be provided with the resources to respond to the problems with which these young people are faced. In addition, there is a need to provide them with attractive opportunities in the formal labour market, as well as to restore welfare benefits and educational grants to young people (Adams et. al 1997). While young people are denied legitimate means to resist destitution, or to achieve economic and domestic autonomy, prostitution will continue to appear as a rational economic choice and they will continue to engage in ‘survival acts’ through which their economic marginalisation and emotional vulnerability become more deeply entrenched (Melrose 2000)
Yes the views of Melrose are the prime motivator for children to enter prostitution is poverty and lack of opportunities in the formal labour market.