Friday, June 4, 2010

AIDS and HumanTrafficking

It's a tragedy played out on similar stages across the theaters of human trafficking. A girl or woman, having been robbed of the best years of her life due to systematic exploitation and brutal rape, gets AIDS and is thrown out of the brothel to die. They are disposable, as Free The Slaves founder Kevin Bales has so poignantly described them, because they are no longer viable commodities. And so their pimps turn them out, leaving them to the ravages of starvation and cultural stigmatization. Often they are spit on and completely denied reintegration into their societies as governments and fellow citizens fear they will spread the disease.

Aids is a perpetual fear and daily reality of so many of the girls in brothels. They are servicing up to 40 men a day, many of whom refuse to use condoms. Often when the girls insist they are beaten for their insolence and lack of submission. In some countries, like Thailand, Aids has reached pandemic proportions, with the number of infected nationally estimated at 1 million of a 65 million population. This is fueled by the commercial sex industry which makes up the largest part of Thailand's GDP. The government can't afford for sex tourism to be adversely affected so they have often repressed statistics and further endangered the lives of brothel workers.

There is also a fair amount of ignorance and superstition surrounding the AIDS virus. One such predominantly Asian and African folklore, is that men can be cured of the disease by sleeping with a virgin. This fuels the trafficking of younger and younger girls who can be medically verified as virgins, and who then can have there virginity sold at enormous profit for brothel owners. Also these girls then are potentially infected the very first time they are raped.

There are other potential innocent victims of the AIDS virus. Wives of the men who contract it at brothels. Although this may not seem to have a direct link of to the trafficking of women it ultimately can. When parents die of AIDS their children become vulnerable. Orphans are one of the easiest groups to traffick and sexually exploit. According to a UNAIDS study there are
eleven million AIDS orphans in the sub-Saharan region of Africa alone. With little or no supervision, these orphans are continually more susceptible to the lies and coercions of human traffickers. The tiny country of Lesotho (completely surrounded by the Republic of South Africa), has a population of 2.2 million, of which 31% of the adults have AIDS. This produces an inordinate number of orphans along with an unimaginable host of other societal crises. A 2005 UNICEF study reported women there running child brothels in exchange for food and shelter. A similar tragedy is playing out in Swaziland prompting social researcher and Pastor Jabaluni Dlamini to offer this dark prediction that succinctly sums up the dire AIDS orphan situation there and the child trafficking situation everywhere. "Human vultures will descend to prey on these children. Unless there is accounting for every child, they may be swooped up by child traffickers, never to be seen again."

Please consider adoption. Please fund orphanages, especially those in areas where children are most likely to be trafficked. Please do not leave these children to the vultures.

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