The rise of ultimate fighting and boxing has taken storm around the world. Derivatives of UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) take on the martial arts and boxing practices without the rules and regulations.
So how unregulated does it get? Well there is a whole underground kid boxing industry in Thailand. Yeah that’s not kick boxing, KID boxing. The ‘sporting’ culture that incorporates the Thai traditions and rituals is important to Thai identity. The fighting style that is Muay Thai, is a 700-year-year old martial arts tradition that was used to by the country to defend themselves against foreign invasion. Now it is part of a largely unregulated and dangerous sport. It appeals to children because it has a massive turnover and they can help lift their family out of poverty by turning pro at the age of five. Children and infants are exposed to rounds of kicking pulling and punching. Doctors are becoming worried about the long term and short term effects of head injuries that children are contracting weekend after weekend.
The complexity of this is that Thailand acknowledges the importance of child and human rights with their involvement in international treaties and conventions. One such convention is the Convention on Children’s Rights. Also, under the International Labour Organisation’s Convention on Child Labour the fighting would not be allowed. However will anyone actually follow suit if it is banned? Experts say that since it is such a big industry it is unlikely but if we can get enough awareness maybe we can get the rules and regulations changed to be safer. Research shows that children and parents are supportive of the ‘sport’ but I am guessing that the 3things audience would agree that this is a bit more of an issue than just trying to exercise your tummy muscles. However we do not want to deprive poor families of their only access to income, food and an education.
With 30, 000 child boxers entering rings around Thailand on fight night are these boxers being empowered as they earn a living and reputation from the Thai audience? Or is this another form of exploiting the poor? You can decide for yourself by watching the Buffalo Girls Movie at the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival when it is at Sydney. Presented by our friends at Make Poverty History it follows the journey of two young girls as they strive for a championship. For those who are interested but can’t be at Sydney there is a preview of the movie for you below. Also the Human Rights Festival will be featured around Australia so be sure to check out when it is coming to a town near you.
Here is also a short clip featured on a news website that covered the issues. We can see the tremendous respect and discipline the little troopers have as they make their way to the top of the championship board. Culture is obviously important but does this help you decide that enough is enough?