We are currently living in a place where children regularly work. I see them every day, selling fruit or postcards, making food and change and food stalls at the markets, and even in shops. This isn’t great. It is illegal. This place is also a highly touristed area. I see endless lines of vans each day dropping off groups of tourists from many countries who disperse and reassemble after eating their lunch or buying souvenirs. One hopes that at least those children are bringing some money into the family that needs them to work. But that doesn’t make it right. And it puts them into the world of tourists.

It is also a common occurrence to see these tourists taking photos of children. It can even be encouraged by tour guides, but these tourists need no encouragement. See a cute kid, take a picture. See a poor kid, take a picture. See a kid in a school uniform, take a picture. See a young monk, take a picture. 

When the child knows their picture is being taken is it usually tacitly accepted as an act they have no control over and no power to refuse. The perceived power disparity between tourist and local, Westerner and Asian, adult and child, usually allows for the former to take from the latter at will. The fact that in most cases the children do not speak English, or any number of other languages of the tourists, does not help. 

However, respect is absent. The common understanding of consent is disregarded. If these people were in their home country, they would be much less inclined to take a picture of a child that isn’t theirs without that child’s parents’ permission. It is tourism without consent. It is offensive and shameful for those who do it. And for those who either encourage it or stand silently by letting others in their tour group do it. We all have to do better.

Don’t take pictures of other people’s kids without permission and consent. It is just basic decency.

Ashley E. Remer
-Head Girl
Girl Museum

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