Monday, October 25, 2010
According to the American Anti-Slavery Group, "until the 18th century the offering typically took the form of livestock or other gifts, but that began to change and priests began demanding, and receiving, virgin girls as atonement for the sins of their relatives. Girls, often under the age of 10, are brought to the priest, ritually stripped of all their possessions, including clothes, and told they have to do anything the priest tells them. Most girls are raped repeatedly."
Juliana Dogbadzi, enslaved in a shrine in her native Ghana at the age of 6, was forced to perform sexual services for the holy man. She was able to escape seventeen years later, after several failed attempts, at the age of twenty-three.
Devadasi literally means god’s (Dev) female servant (Dasi), where according to the ancient Indian practice, young pre-pubescent girls are ‘given’ in matrimony to god or local religious deity of the temple. The girl ‘serves’ the priests and inmates of the temple. The sexual service given these men is considered service of god. The Devadasi is dedicated to the service of the temple deity for life and there is no escape for her.
The practice is prevalent in Karnataka, India and surrounding states, such as Andhra Pradesh. There are approximately 23,000 Devadasis in Karnataka today and approximately 17,000 in Andhra Pradesh. Researchers estimate that the number of Devadasis in Karnataka account, for approximately 80% of all sex workers in the area. Devadasis account for an estimated 15% of all sex workers in India.
Above, a terrified child is about to be dedicated for temple service. Each year, an estimated 5,000 young girls are brought to the festival of Yellama to be dedicated as Devadasis. On the night of the full moon in January, thousands of young girls join in a religious procession to the temple for goddess Yellamma in a remote village of Karnataka. After being dedicated, they are auctioned to the highest bidder and enter the world of prostitution.
It is impossible to overstate the particular evil this is, that in the name of god, a child is trafficked into sexual bondage, where not only their innocence is stolen, but their very conscience is torn in two as they must some how reconcile the religion they are taught and the brutalization they are experiencing. Almost every religion has these two things in common, the belief that mankind is somehow made in the image of god and the concept of personal purification through faith or ritual. How can a child ever see god as anything other than a brutal beast with an insatiable lust for innocent flesh when the men made in god's image do those things to her in god's name? And how can these madmen preach sanctity, offer atonement, when they are the ones defiling and destroying true innocence?
Please help Conspiracy Of Hope end the trafficking and sexual exploitation of children in our lifetime. And for every voiceless trokosi and devadasi child, please raise your voice with us to demand justice.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
But those are just numbers.
Numbers are not afraid to cry during the rape sessions, numbers are not afraid of the beatings they will get if they do. Numbers don't get addicted to the heroin force fed them to keep them docile, to break their will, to keep them coming back. Numbers do not have their virginity sold to the highest bidder, or have their "virginity" resold and resold and resold to the highest bidder after a surgery to "restore" that virginity. Numbers are not fed animal hormones to make them look healthy when the ravages of rape and the filth of light-less existence begin to atrophy their bodies. Numbers don't get Aids. Numbers don't get thrown out of a brothel when they do.
But children, 3200 hundred a day, 135 an hour, 2 every minute, do. They lose their childhood, their hope, their sense of justice, their will to live. What if it were your child? What if it were your little sister? I bet she has a name, bet she's not a number to you. Numbers get filed in folders, in file cabinets, between other files, and are forgotten. But you'll never forget her.
These are the real life stories of the victims of human trafficking from The Polaris Project. Their stories are unforgettable, they are the daughters, the baby sisters, the children those numbers represent, they are the statistics that suffer the most depraved of injustices. Please read their stories. Please imagine their words are your own child's, your own sisters words. Please do whatever you would do for your own child for these children. Because until we fight for them with that same passion, that same relentless resolve, they are just a number to us. And numbers have a way of being rounded down, subtracted, erased, and lost forever.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
In Mumbai there are 19 million people. Half live in slums. In fact Mumbai is India's largest city, and has India's largest slum. The children of slum dwellers face the daily prospect of being trafficked. In Mumbai there are 100,000 children enslaved in brothels.
Mumbai is also home to India's richest man Mukesh Ambani. Ambani made the news this week by purchasing the most expensive home ever which is 27 stories high and worth £630m (over a billion dollars US).
According to the Telegraph UK "Ambani, his wife and three children have moved into the building which is named Antilia, after a mythical Island. It contains a health club with a gym and dance studio, a ballroom, countless guestrooms, a range of lounges and a 50 seat cinema. There is even an elevated garden with ceiling space to accommodate small trees. The roof has three helicopter pads and there is also underground parking for 160 cars, which will come in handy for guests at Ambani's forthcoming housewarming party. From the top floors of the 173m high (567 feet) property are spectacular views of Mumbai and of the Arabian Sea.
The 53 year-old tycoon is not only the richest man in India but the fourth richest man in the world. In total there is reported to be 37,000 square metres (almost 40 thousand square feet) of space, which is more than the Palace of Versailles. To keep it running smoothly requires 600 staff. "
It is unconscionable. It is beyond comprehension. It is heartbreaking beyond words, that so few would take so much, when so many, so very near to them, have so little. Please, please, let us make a pact to live lives that take very little and give so very, very much.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
This year, the National Retail Federation expects Americans to spend a record $5.07 billion on costumes, cards, candy and decorations for Halloween, with the average consumer spending $64.82 compared with $59.06 a year ago.
Please join Conspiracy Of Hope in pledging to skip Halloween spending this year by not buying a costume. There are plenty of great sites with free costume ideas and designs. Take the money you would spend and donate it to an organization fighting the trafficking of children. Halloween is a celebration of childhood as much as anything else, please celebrate childhood this Halloween by giving a child their childhood back.
As always thank you for caring about justice, thank you for your passion for human rights, thank you for being a voice for the voiceless.
Monday, October 11, 2010
Tomorrow I will address a group of students in a human rights class about human trafficking and specifically what can be done locally to combat this evil globally. One concern the professor expressed was a growing frustration among some of the students, it seems they are somewhat overwhelmed by the hugeness of the problem and a bit disheartened as to how they can do anything of any significance to stop it.
Recently I had a chance to interview IJM's Gary Haugen. As a member of the UN’s Center For Human Rights Haugen was charged with the horrific task of gathering evidence against the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide. This included the exhumation of mass graves of tortured victims. I asked Gary how he kept from becoming desensitized to suffering?
"By relentless focus on the humanity, beauty and infinite dignity of the individual person."
I believe his answer also speaks to the helpless impotency those students and many other activists feel at times. But if we can somehow turn that answer into a lens to see this crisis through, we might once again find ourselves encouraged, emboldened, and enlivened to the cause of freedom.
For the rest of his answer to this question and for the rest of our interview with Mr. Haugen stay tuned!!! And as always...From all of us at COH...Thank you for being a voice for the voiceless.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Current estimates are that it would take 50 billion dollars a year to end world poverty. If that is correct than truly, at least that part of the human trafficking equation should, and can easily be eliminated.
The following statistics are not meant to disparage America or Americans, they serve as a starting point, certainly other countries will have similar spending patterns.
Americans spend more on gambling then groceries. Upwards of 100 billion dollars a year. Twice the going rate of ending poverty.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates that a combined $276 billion was spent or lost in 2005 on health care, lost productivity, premature death, auto accidents and crime relating to drug and alcohol abuse. That was in 2005, the numbers now are closer to 6 times the going rate to end poverty.
Americans spent $705 billion for entertainment and recreation in 2004, according to a Unity Marketing study Entertainment and Recreational Products Report. 14 times the cost of ending poverty.
Junk food and soft drinks over 200 billion.
In 2000 spending on the lawn and garden industry equaled $85 billion. Of that, $6.3 billion was spent on lawn and garden accessories like sundials, fountains and sculptures.
I could go on. About tooth art, vacation homes, air conditioned dog houses. Valentines day, Easter, Christmas and Halloween.... Sports cars, 52 inch plasma screens, 5 dollar lattes and 20 billion dollar annual bottled water sales....
Half of the world lives on less than 2 dollars a day. 2 dollars! Or an ATM fee, a late charge for a movie.
Even if it were 500 billion instead of 50 billion to end poverty, it's still well within reach by only cutting out waste and luxury. Once again if only we would would heed Gandhi's words and "Live simply so that others can simply live". Literally, a lifestyle change can save a life.
What would it cost to end poverty? That's not the question we should be asking. Instead....
What will it cost if we don't?
Saturday, October 2, 2010
What happens when human traffickers are not scared of the law? They are emboldened and the exploitation of children becomes ever more perverse, the girl's get younger and younger, and the light of decency flickers, fades and finally starts to go out.
If this isn't a call to action then we are not listening. No child should ever learn to count in increments of oral sex prices. No girl with her baby teeth should ever have to perform oral sex on any man. Until childhood and innocence become priceless to us, they will always be for sale to someone else. As long as one child is for sale, all children are in danger.
This is what's at stake.