Just Sociology

Exploitation and Abuse of Children: A Multifaceted Issue

The topic of violence against girls and women is one of the most pressing issues in society today. Two particularly disturbing manifestations of this violence are child marriage and ritualized violence against girls.

Despite efforts to eradicate these practices, they continue to occur in various parts of the world, and in some cases, are even sanctioned by cultural norms. This article delves into the complexities of these two forms of violence and explores the social, cultural, and economic factors that contribute to their persistence.

1. Child Marriage

1.1 Child Brides in India

Teenage girls in India are frequently subjected to a tremendous amount of pressure to marry at a young age, often before reaching the legal age of 18.

One of the primary reasons for this is the poverty that plagues much of the country. Families may see their daughters as a financial burden and believe that marrying them off is a way to reduce their expenses.

Additionally, in rural areas, there is a belief that a girl’s value lies in her ability to bear children and keep house. This mentality is particularly prevalent in parts of northern India, where child marriage rates are high.

The consequences of early marriage on girl’s future prospects are devastating. Girls who marry at a young age are frequently unable to continue their education or pursue a career.

This contributes to a cycle of poverty that often continues for generations. Furthermore, young brides are at risk of domestic violence, lack agency to make their own reproductive choices, and are more susceptible to a range of health problems related to early pregnancy.

1.2 Coerced Marriage in the USA

While child marriage may be more commonly associated with developing countries, it is also a problem in the USA. Girls who are victims of coerced marriage may be forced into marriage through physical or emotional abuse or threats.

This form of violence often leads to the rape of the child bride and a lack of autonomy in regards to reproductive choices. Violence is also carried out against those who attempt to leave the coerced marriage, thereby maintaining a cycle of fear and control in the relationship.

Despite the illegality of child marriage in the USA. it continues to occur due to loopholes in the law which allow for exceptions (such as parental consent).

In some states, the minimum age of marriage is as low as 14 years old, meaning that girls are not only vulnerable to coerced marriage, but also legally unprotected. 2.

Ritualized Violence Against Girls

2.1 Hamar Tribe, Ethiopia

In Ethiopia, the Hamar tribe still practices a ritualized violence against girls as part of a cultural puberty ceremony. The ceremony, known as the cattle jump, involves young girls being whipped as they run across the backs of cattle.

The scars left by these whippings are viewed as a symbol of the girl’s strength and resilience, and are seen as a prerequisite for marriage. While the girls who participate in the ceremony are willing volunteers, and the violence perpetrated against them is ritualized rather than arbitrary, it is nonetheless disturbing to view such violence as a necessary passage into adulthood.

2.2 Honors Violence in Pakistan

Honors violence in Pakistan is a particularly extreme example of culturally sanctioned violence against girls. Honor killings are perpetrated against girls who are perceived to have brought dishonor to their families, usually through behaviors such as pre-marital sex or refusal to enter into an arranged marriage.

These killings are carried out by family members in order to restore the family’s honor. Honors violence against girls is particularly widespread in the rural areas of Pakistan, where strong patriarchal values prevail.

There is widespread acceptance of the notion that women are the property of men, and that any perceived slight against their honor warrants violent retribution.


In conclusion, the issues of child marriage and ritualized violence against girls are complex and multifaceted, with deep-rooted social, cultural, and economic factors contributing to their persistence. While measures such as legislation and awareness campaigns can help to address these issues, a deeper cultural transformation is necessary.

This can only be achieved through a sustained effort to challenge harmful gender norms, eradicate poverty, and promote education, autonomy, and agency for girls and women globally.The concept of childhood is often understood as a period of innocence, freedom, and play. However, for millions of children around the world, childhood is marked by exploitation, violence, and slavery.

In this article, we will explore two cases where the social construction of childhood is dramatically different. The first deals with the issue of child slavery in West Africa, which has taken root in traditional practices such as the Trokosi shrine system.

The second topic examines the concept of childhood as a socially constructed idea, with a focus on the phenomenon of child soldiers. 3.

Child Slavery in West Africa

3.1. Trokosi Practice

In several West African nations, thousands of young girls are trapped in the Trokosi system, in which they are forced into marriage to the gods of the shrine. For these girls, their lives become a never-ending cycle of forced labor, submission, and sexual servitude.

They are condemned to live in the shrine or nearby compounds, dedicating their lives to cleaning, cooking, and performing other tasks for the priests and shrine officials.

The Trokosi practice is kept alive by traditional beliefs that hold that young girls must be sacrificed to the gods as atonement for the perceived sins of their families.

The girls are then deemed to be the “servants of God” and must remain in the shrine as long as they live. They are never allowed to marry, and neither are their children, who are born into slavery.

Unfortunately, despite being banned by law, Trokosi is still practiced today in Ghana, Togo, and other parts of West Africa. 3.2. Child Labor

Child labor is another manifestation of child slavery in West Africa.

Thousands of children are forced into labor in small-scale mining, agriculture, and other forms of work. While poverty is a significant factor in pushing children into labor, so are weak enforcement of labor laws and school systems, and lack of access to education.

In Ghana, for example, child labor is mostly used in the cocoa industry, with children involved in dangerous work that involves the use of dangerous and heavy machinery. The exploitation of child labor in West Africa undermines the children’s rights to be protected from harmful work and enjoy their right to education.

Child laborers also suffer from exploitation and abuse, hazardous working conditions, and risks to their mental and physical health. 4.

Childhood as Socially Constructed

4.1. Child Soldiers

The use of child soldiers is a widespread phenomenon in contemporary conflict, in which children are recruited, indoctrinated, and trained to participate in armed combat. Children are employed both as combatants and support staff.

The systematic recruitment, indoctrination, and deployment of children in armed conflicts are a gross violation of their rights, and pose significant implications for their development and wellbeing. Child soldiers are exposed to multiple forms of violence, are compelled to commit atrocities, and suffer from traumatic experiences that often shape their long-term health, social and mental development, and prospects.

The factors that lead to the recruitment and use of child soldiers include extreme poverty, social norms, lack of education, and conflict incentives, such as access to food, shelter, drugs, and protection. 4.2. Child Labor

Child labor is another area where the concept of childhood is socially constructed.

The widespread use of child labor is largely due to economic exploitation and the enduring social norms which deem child labor to be acceptable. Child laborers are employed in a range of sectors, such as agriculture, factories, mining, or street vending.

The exploitation of child labor ensures cheap wages, and limits the access of children to education and vocational opportunities later in life. This makes it difficult for child laborers to break free from the cycle of poverty and deprives them of their right to live free from any form of exploitation.


The concepts of childhood are vastly different depending on the culture, values, and policies that shape it. However, they share a common thread in which children are exposed to vulnerability, exploitation, and abuse.

The various forms of child slavery, labor, and exploitation compromise children’s development and wellbeing, contravene their rights, and feed into structural inequalities, poverty, and human rights violations. Governments, civil society, international organizations, and individuals have a responsibility to protect children’s rights, promote their access to education, health, and protection, and challenge the social norms and practices that harm children’s development and childhood.

In conclusion, this article has explored several pressing issues related to violence, exploitation, and abuse against children. We have delved into the complexities of child marriage, ritualized violence, child slavery, and the socially constructed concept of childhood.

These practices have dire consequences for the children that are subjected to them, such as compromised health and education access, restricted autonomy, and long-term physical and psychological harm. It is important for governments, civil society, and individuals to work towards eradicating these harmful practices and protecting children’s rights, freedom, and dignity.


Q: What causes child marriages to occur? A: Child marriage is often driven by factors such as poverty, harmful gender norms, and cultural practices that view girls as inferior and inferior to men.

Q: Is child marriage illegal everywhere? A: Although child marriage is illegal in most countries, it still happens due to enforcement difficulties and legal loopholes.

Q: What are the impacts of child slavery? A: The impacts of child slavery include limited access to education, exposure to exploitation and abuse, and long-term physical and psychological harm.

Q: Why are children used as soldiers? A: Children are used as soldiers because they are often easier to manipulate and control, and can be indoctrinated more effectively than adults.

Q: What is the impact of child labor? A: The impact of child labor includes exploitation, limited access to education, and long-term economic disadvantage.

Q: How can we address these issues? A: Addressing these issues requires a multi-faceted approach that includes legislative reform, social and cultural transformation, access to education, and international cooperation.

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