Kathmandu’s adult entertainment sector (AES) is made up of a complex web of venues that includes massage parlours, dance bars, cabin restaurants and guest houses. These workplaces employ young women and girls as waitresses and dancers who entertain male patrons.
Many of these venues have become a front for commercial sex, and, alarmingly, the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC). Similarly, establishments in the wider hospitality industry, such as snack shops and some hotels, have also started providing these services and allowed similar exploitation. According to a 2010 report by Tdh Nepal, as many as one-third of females working in Kathmandu’s AES are under the age of 18.
This report seeks to understand the profiles of those who use the services of children. After conducting in-depth interviews with the owners, managers and customers of the venues where CSEC takes place, the authors discovered the widespread prevalence and acceptance of a culture that permits and justifies exploitation. While interviewees broadly agreed that sex with children is morally reprehensible, each group shifted the blame for CSEC on a different group. They created narratives to excuse the use of minors in the sector, supported by cultural factors that have made the coveting of girls acceptable.
Those who use the services of children are able to normalise their behaviour and distance themselves from the harmful implications of their actions. This research shows that the narratives that normalise, justify and excuse the sexual exploitation of children must be challenged.