Friday, June 25, 2010
Futbol fever has gripped the world and for 16 teams and their respective countries, the dream of being the #1 team is still alive. Face painted, flag draped fans with vuvuzelas have created such a cacophony that Fifa has considered banning the plastic horns. It is Mardi Gras meets the Super Bowl in South Africa and it's fun! Fun! FUN!!!
But not for everybody. In the lead up to the contest 42 million condoms were sent from Great Britain alone, (out of an estimated 1 billion that may be needed) and an estimated 40 thousand women were trafficked into the country from many other nations. South African Officials have attempted to distance themselves somewhat from these numbers saying that an increased police presence surrounding the World Cup has offset any raised rate of trafficking. While actual numbers are unclear, what is clear is demand always dictates supply. And when that many males are in one small area for any length of time, the criminal element is glad to give them what they want. Several campaigns in the lead up to the contest seem to have helped to some degree. NotForSale.org is running what they are calling the Red Card Campaign to fight human trafficking during this year's World Cup. Here is video from that campaign.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Today is World Day Against Child Labor. The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 215 million children engaged in illegal labor, with half being in the worst forms of slave labor. This includes, but is of course not limited to, the sex trade, child soldiering, bonded labor and the illegal drug trade.
Like most forms of child exploitation, illegal child labor is born from the womb of poverty. Many children are forced to work solely for their family or for themselves to survive. Many children will not eat if they don't work. And of course this type of desperation gives greed and evil ample opportunity for the most egregious forms exploitation.
Please let your voice be heard today and everyday for the innocent victims of illegal labor. Please make sure the products you consume are slave labor free. Ask your congressmen to support the Child Protection Compact Act. Please live simply and give whatever you can to legitimate organizations that fight poverty. Inform yourself. There are also many informative and inspiring videos on the ILO's YouTube page. From all of us at COH, thank you for defending the defenseless. Thank you for being a voice for the voiceless. Thank you for fighting for justice for the oppressed and exploited.
Friday, June 4, 2010
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.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Another hideous facet of human trafficking is the use of child soldiers. According to UNICEF there are 300,000 children serving as soldiers, guerrillas, spies, sex slaves (for their superiors), and suicide commandos in conflicts in 50 different nations. Children as young as five are stolen from their villages, forced to kill their families, robbed of all innocence, and psychologically brutalized. The following are their words. Their names have been abbreviated to protect them and their families.
L-., age 7
The rebels told me to join them, but I said no. Then they killed my smaller brother. I changed my mind. (source: Radio Netherlands)
A-., age 12
I was very scared. It was an attack on the paramilitaries. We killed about seven of them. We had to drink their blood to conquer our fear. Only the scared ones had to. I was the most scared of all, because I was the youngest. (source: Human Rights Watch)
D-., age 16
I was attending primary school. The rebels came and attacked us. They killed my mother and father in front of my eyes. I was ten years old. They took me with them...taught us to fight. The first time I killed someone, I got so sick, I thought I was going to die. (source: Radio Netherlands)
A-., age 16
I was forced to do amputations. We had a cutlass, an ax, and a big log. We called the villagers out and let them stand in line. You ask whether they want a long hand or a short hand [amputation at the wrist or the elbow]. The long hand you put in a different bag from the short hand. If you have a large number of amputated hands in the bag, the promotion will be automatic, to various ranks. (source: Newsweek)
D-., age 16
When we attacked a town, we would rape people. When we saw a lot of girls, we'd rape. Even I had a woman. I was twelve at the time. She was about 15. Our commanders said all of us had to have a woman. If we didn't they'd kill us. (source: Radio Netherlands)
Warning. The next quote is extremely graphic and disturbing. I really anguished about including it. But we need to know what these children go through on a daily basis. Just be warned. It's that brutal.
K-., girl, age 13
We were taken to a mosque in Kissy [Sierra Leone]. They killed everyone in there..... They were snatching babies from their mother's arms and tossing them in the air. The babies would free-fall to their deaths. At other times they would also chop them from the back of their heads to kill them, you know like you do when you slaughter chickens....One girl with us tried to escape. They made her take off her slippers and give them to me and then killed her. One time we came across two pregnant women. They tied the women down with their legs eagle-spread and took a sharpened stick and jabbed them inside of their wombs until the babies came out on the stick. (source: Physicians For Human Rights)
This unconscionable and detestable type of child exploitation must stop. If you want to get involved, here are some organizations that fight to stop the use of child soldiers. World Vision, Invisible Children, Coalition to Stop the Use Of Child Soldiers, and War Child International.
Also, P.W. Singer's book Children At War is a rather exhaustive volume on child soldiers if you would like to study this aspect of human trafficking in more depth. The previous quotes were collected there, along with many others.