Friday, November 29, 2013

Violence Against Women: A Lexicon, An Overview, A Call To Arms

Violence against women, or Gender-based violence (GBV) is pandemic. All research, all the diabolical data, every painful statistic suggests that it is growing, and in some cases exponentially so. The causes for these trends are complex and many, but the simplest truth lies in the desires of men, the marginalization of women and the apathy and ignorance of the un-involved. This lexicon with its devastating images is a call to arms. It is an antidote against ignorance and a light on the darkest evils committed among us. 

For continuity sake all definitions were sourced from Wikipedia unless otherwise footnoted. Some of those definitions have been edited for space sake or augmented for clarity. The pictures were gathered from the web and are not the property of COH. As always we are disinclined to post such pictures as they can further humiliate and exploit the victims of these crimes. It is with great reluctance that we do so, and only after considering that these are already in widespread use across the internet and many are used with the permission of the women to facilitate an end to the violence against future victims. In every sense we are deeply indebted to all who have studied these issues in depth and who work tirelessly to end these injustices. We bring these terms (alphabetically) and images together in one place as a tool for the justice fighters, for the voices for the voiceless, for the lovers of women and girls everywhere. Never give up, a society without women ceases to exist. A society where woman are not safe is the very definition of barbarism and the absence of society itself. From all of us at Conspiracy Of Hope, thank you beyond all our words.

Acid Throwing 

Acid throwing, also called an acid attack or vitriolage, is a form of violent assault defined as the act of throwing acid or a similarly corrosive substance onto the body of another with the intention to disfigure, maim, torture, or kill. (This is usually directed at the face or the female sexual anatomy.)

Experts say that women and girls are victims in 75-80% of cases. Of the female victims, about 30% are under 18. Although 1,500 cases are recorded around the world every year, according to the Acid Survivors Trust International. "That is likely to be massively underreported," says Jaf Shah, ASTI executive director. "Most victims are fearful to report it to the police for fear of reprisal." India has an increasing problem with acid attacks. ASTI estimates that 1,000 take place there every year. BBC News 

Breast ironing 

Breast ironing (also known as breast flattening) is the pounding and massaging of a pubescent girl's breasts, using hard or heated objects, to try to make them stop developing or disappear. It is typically carried out by the girl's mother who will say she is trying to protect the girl from sexual harassment and rape, to prevent early pregnancy that would tarnish the family name, or to allow the girl to pursue education rather than be forced into early marriage. Mostly practiced in parts of Cameroon, where boys and men may think that girls whose breasts have begun to grow are ready for sex. The most widely used implement for breast ironing is a wooden pestle normally used for pounding tubers. Other tools used include leaves,bananas, coconut shells, grinding stones, ladles, spatulas, and hammers heated over coals. 

Obviously extremely painful and psychologically traumatizing. Young girls can have many life long health issues from the barbaric procedure, including inability to breast feed and higher risk for breast cancer.

Bride burning

Bride burning is where a groom or his family kills the bride due to his dissatisfaction over the amount or duration of the dowry. (Above, two survivors, scarred forever) Kerosene is most often used as the fuel and the practice is most common in India accounting for around 2,500 deaths per year in the country. In 1995, Time Magazine reported that dowry deaths in India increased from around 400 a year in the early 1980s to around 5,800 a year by the middle of the 1990s. A year later, CNN ran a story saying that every year police receive more than 2,500 reports of bride burning.

Child Brides and Forced Marriage

Child marriage is defined as a formal marriage or informal union before the age of 18. While child marriage is observed for both boys and girls, overwhelming majority are girls. It is related to child betrothal and unmarried teenage pregnancy. In some cases only one marriage-partner is a child, usually the female, due to importance placed upon female virginity. Other causes of child marriage include poverty, bride price, dowry, laws that allow child marriages, religious and social pressures, regional customs, fear of remaining unmarried, and perceived inability of women to work for money. Today child marriages are fairly widespread in parts of the world, especially in Africa, South Asia, Southeast and East Asia, West Asia, Latin America, and Oceania. The five nations with the highest observed rates of child marriages in the world, below the age of 18, are Niger, Chad, Mali, Bangladesh and Guinea. Nations with greater than 20% rates of child marriages below the age of 15 are Niger, Bangladesh and Guinea. As you can imagine child brides are also victims to higher rates of spousal abuse due to their diminutive stature and lack of understanding as to what their rights are and what is acceptable. And children fleeing these unions are often stoned or killed in some other violent fashion.

Every year, an estimated 14 million girls aged under 18 are married worldwide with little or no say in the matter. As many as 39,000 a day. In the developing world, one in seven girls is married before her 15th birthday and some child brides are as young as eight or nine. More statistics and ways you can help at Girls Not Brides.

Dating abuse 

Dating abuse, or dating violence, is defined as the perpetration or threat of an act of violence by at least one member of an unmarried couple on the other member within the context of dating or courtship. It is also when one partner tries to maintain power and control over the other through abuse/violence. This abuse/violence can take a number of forms: sexual assault, sexual harassment, threats, physical violence, verbal, mental, or emotional abuse, social sabotage, and stalking. It can include psychological abuse, emotional blackmail, sexual abuse, physical abuse and psychological manipulation.

According to Love Is Respect, one quarter of high school girls have been victims of physical or sexual abuse. Approximately 70% of college students say they have been sexually coerced. 

Date rape

Date rape refers to rape committed by a person, who could be a friend, acquaintance or stranger, against a victim. Commonly, date rape is referring to drug facilitated sexual assault or an acquaintance rape. Sexual assault is any sexual act done to someone without their consent. Drug facilitated sexual assault is any sexual assault where alcohol and/or drugs affect the victim's ability to give informed consent. Drug Facilitated Rape typically involves the use of a the "date rape drug" (Flunitraepam, Rohypnol, GHB (Liquid E or Liquid G) and/ or alcohol. It is quite common, but not limited to, many college campuses across the United States. According to recent studies, alcohol is the #1 drug used to facilitate a sexual assault. For rape which takes place on campuses, alcohol is being used in 90% of cases. Acquaintance rape is an assault or attempted assault usually committed by a new acquaintance involving sexual intercourse without consent.  Nearly 2/3 of all victims between the ages of 18 and 29 report that they had a prior relationship with their attacker.

Stories of date rape told by the victims.

Domestic violence

Domestic violence, also known as domestic abuse, spousal abuse, battering, family violence, dating abuse, and intimate partner violence (IPV), is a pattern of behavior which involves the abuse by one partner against another in an intimate relationship such as marriage, cohabitation, dating or within the family. Domestic violence can take many forms, including physical aggression or assault (hitting, kicking, biting, shoving, restraining, slapping, throwing objects, battery), or threats thereof; sexual abuse; emotional abuse; controlling or domineering; intimidation; stalking; passive/covert abuse (e.g., neglect); and economic deprivation. 

Laws on domestic violence vary by country. While it is generally outlawed in the Western World, this is not the case in many developing countries. For instance, in 2010, the United Arab Emirates's Supreme Court ruled that a man has the right to physically discipline his wife and children as long as he does not leave physical marks. The social acceptability of domestic violence also differs by country. While in most developed countries domestic violence is considered unacceptable by most people, in many regions of the world the views are different: according to a UNICEF survey, the percentage of women aged 15–49 who think that a husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife under certain circumstances is, for example: 90% in Afghanistan and Jordan, 87% in Mali, 86% in Guinea and Timor-Leste, 81% in Laos, 80% in Central African Republic. Refusing to submit to a husband's wishes is a common reason given for justification of violence in developing countries: for instance 62.4% of women in Tajikistan justify wife beating if the wife goes out without telling the husband; 68% if she argues with him; 47.9% if she refuses to have sex with him.

Domestic Violence statistics in the USA

-One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.

-An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.

-85% of domestic violence victims are women.

-Females who are 20-24 years of age are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence.

Domestic Violence statistics Worldwide

-35% of women worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.

-30% of women who have been in a relationship report that they have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence by their partner.

-Globally, as many as 38% of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner

More Statistics here from Women's Aid

Domestic Violence and Pregnancy

Pregnancy when coupled with domestic violence is a form of intimate partner violence (IPV) where health risks may be amplified. Abuse during pregnancy, whether physical, verbal or emotional, produces many adverse physical and psychological effects for both the mother and fetus. 

Domestic abuse can be triggered by pregnancy for a number of reasons. Pregnancy itself can be used a form of coercion and the phenomenon of preventing one’s reproductive choice is referred to as reproductive coercion. Studies on birth control sabotage performed by males against female partners have indicated a strong correlation between domestic violence and birth control sabotage, or reproductive coercion, such as replacing birth control pills with fakes, puncturing condoms, and threats and violence are examples of prevention of an individual's attempt to avoid pregnancy

Although pregnancy can also lead to a hiatus of domestic violence when the abuser does not want to harm the unborn child. The risk of domestic violence for pregnant women is greatest immediately after childbirth.

Other related facts:

-Unintended pregnancies are 2 to 3 times more likely to be associated with abuse than intended pregnancies. 

-Among adolescent populations females who experience IPV use condoms at low rates and are fearful of negotiating the use of condoms.

-In a study of sexually experienced women 15-19 in Uganda, surveys found that fourteen percent of women’s first sexual intercourse had been coerced. Of those, girls were far more likely to be having unprotected sex and to have had unintended pregnancies within the last six months compared to women who had not been sexually coerced.

-In Egypt, over 80% of rural women believe that beatings are sometimes justified and one of the most common reasons given as a just cause for beatings is refusing a man sex. This affects the ability of women to protect themselves from unwanted sexual contact and the consequences of sexual intercourse, such as pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

 Dowry death

Above, children protest the dowry system and its death penalties. Below, a young survivor of an attempted dowry murder.

Dowry deaths are deaths of young women who are murdered or driven to suicide by continuous harassment and torture by husbands and in-laws in an effort to extort an increased dowry. It is widespread in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and some regions of Africa. Pakistan has the highest reported rates of dowry-related deaths per 100,000 women in the world. In India, In 2010, there were 8391 reported cases of dowry death in the country. That works out to a shocking one death every hour approximately. Bride-burning is on the increase - just a decade ago, in 2000, there were 6995 cases.

Honor killing

An honor killing is the homicide of a member of a family or social group by other members. This crime is especially targeted against women. These atrocities are often the culmination of other crimes and human rights violations including rape, incest and child abuse. The use of the term 'honor' comes from a distorted belief held by the perpetrators that the victim has brought dishonor or shame upon the family or community. Perpetrators committing these murders rationalize their actions, blaming victims for refusing to enter an arranged marriage, being in a relationship that is disapproved by their relatives, having sex outside marriage, becoming the victim of rape, and even dressing in ways which are deemed inappropriate.

These figures from Honour Based Violence Awareness Network, are considered estimates and are widely believed to be severe underestimates.  Due to lack of focused reporting and recording of Honour Killings internationally very little is known about the true extent of HBV worldwide. These don't figure in the large number of honour violence that may not be fatal.

-5000 honour killings internationally per year

-1000 honour killings occur in India per year

-1000 honour killings occur in Pakistan per year

-12 honour killings per year in UK per year

Female Genital Mutilation

Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female genital cutting and female circumcision, is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as "all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons." FGM is practiced as a cultural ritual by ethnic groups in 27 countries in sub-Saharan and Northeast Africa, and to a lesser extent in Asia, the Middle East. It is typically carried out, with or without anesthesia, by a traditional circumciser using a knife or razor. The age of the girls varies from weeks after birth to puberty; in half the countries for which figures were available in 2013, most girls were cut before the age of five.

The practice involves one or more of several procedures, which vary according to the ethnic group. They include removal of all or part of the clitoris and clitoral hood; all or part of the clitoris and inner labia; and in its most severe form infibulation is the removal of the labia minora (inner lips) and labia majora (outer lips). When the labial tissue heals, it forms a wall of skin and flesh across the vagina and the rest of the pubic area. By inserting a twig or similar before the wound heals, a small hole is created for the passage of urine and menstrual blood. The procedure is usually accompanied by the removal of the clitoris. The legs are bound together for two to four weeks to allow the labia to heal into a barrier. The procedure is usually carried out on young girls before the onset of puberty. It is used by practitioners to render women sexually inactive, unlikely to engage in intercourse, and the visibly intact barrier of infibulation assures a husband he has married a virgin. The barrier produced by infibulation is usually penetrated at the time of a girl's marriage by the forcible action of the penis of her husband, or by cutting the connected tissue with a knife. The procedure frequently results in organ damage, urinary incontinence, obstetric fistula, and death.

Around 125 million women and girls in Africa and the Middle East have undergone FGM. Over eight million have experienced Type III, which is predominant in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan. The practice is an ethnic marker, rooted in gender inequality, ideas about purity, modesty and aesthetics, and attempts to control women's sexuality. It is supported by both women and men in countries that practice it, particularly by the women, who see it as a source of honour and authority, and an essential part of raising a daughter well.

Female infanticide

Female infanticide is the deliberate killing of newborn female children or the termination of a female in utero through selective and forced abortions. The practice has been the cause of death for millions in China and India. In nature, 105 boys are born for every 100 girls. But in India there are 112 boys born for every 100 girls. In China, 121 (with plenty of Chinese towns over the 150 mark, mostly due to the countries one child policy). Azerbaijan is at 115, Georgia at 118 and Armenia at 120.

Above, Chinese propaganda poster championing its one-child family planning policy. Below the rapid increase of female infant mortality since the inception of the policy.

In her book "Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls and the Consequences of a World Full of Men", Mara Hvistendahl reports on this gender imbalance. By her count, gender-based abortions over the past three decades mean there are 163 million girls missing from the world.

Ms. Hvistendahl predicts that such a gross gender imbalance is a harbinger of very bad things to come. And rightly so, as Columbia economics professor Lena Edlund corroborates: "The greatest danger associated with prenatal sex determination is...that a significant group of the world's women will end up being stolen or sold from their homes and forced into prostitution or marriage."

Forced Pregnancy and Pregnancy From Rape

Forced pregnancy is the practice of forcing a woman to become pregnant, often as part of a forced marriage, or as part of a program of breeding slaves, or as part of a program of genocide. When a forced pregnancy leads to reproduction, it is a form of reproductive coercion. The statistics are hard to come by, they are convoluted and hidden in the shadows of other crimes.

Pregnancy is also a very real potential result of rape. Although claims have been made to the contrary, the current scientific consensus is that rape is as likely to lead to pregnancy as consensual sexual intercourse. Rape can cause difficulties during and after pregnancy, with potential negative consequences for both mother and child. Some statistics suggest over 90% of pregnancies in children 15 and under are due to rape by family members.

Estimates by one study concluded coerced sexual intercourse causes over 32,000 pregnancies in the United States alone each year. That same study revealed that among women aged 12–45, pregnancy occurred in 5% of victims of rape. A study of Ethiopian adolescents who reported being raped found that 17% subsequently became pregnant, and rape crisis centers in Mexico reported the figure the rate of pregnancy from rape at 15–18%. These numbers will always reflect a low rate as family abuse pregnancies are almost always covered up.

Forced prostitution 

Forced prostitution, also known as involuntary prostitution, is the act of performing sexual activity due to coercion by a third party. There are a wide range of entry routes into prostitution, ranging from "voluntary and deliberate" entry, "semi-voluntary" based on pressure of circumstances, and "involuntary" recruitment via outright force or coercion. Sexual slavery encompasses most, if not all, forms of forced prostitution.

Child prostitution, is ALWAYS forced prostitution because it is inherently non-consensual and exploitative, as children, because of their age (18 and under in most developing countries), are not legally able to consent to sex.

In many poorer countries, child prostitution is widespread, and numerous tourists from the Western World travel to these countries to engage in child sex tourism. Thailand, Cambodia, India, Brazil and Mexico have been identified as leading hotspots of child sexual exploitation and forced prostitution.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that 500,000 women are forced into prostitution each year. Most organizations set that number at 1.2 million. with 100,000 in the US alone.

It is also estimated that children make up 21% of forced sexually exploited labor in the private economy. And 80% of those are girls.

COH explicitly supports International Justice Mission in their work to end forced prostitution. And My Refuge House in their aftercare of girls freed from sexual bondage.

Genocidal rape 

Above, Bosnian woman is the victim of genocidal rape. Below, three Rwandian victims of the same, including one child.

Genocidal rape is a term used to describe the actions of a group who have carried out acts of mass rape during wartime against their perceived enemy as part of a genocidal campaign. During the Yugoslav civil war and the Rwandan genocide the mass rapes that had been an integral part of those conflicts brought the concept of genocidal rape to international prominence. While war rape has been a recurrent feature in conflicts throughout history, it has usually been looked upon as a by-product of conflict, and not an integral part of military policy. During the Rwandan genocide the violence took a gender specific form, with women and girls being targeted in a systematic campaign of sexual assault. It is estimated that between 250,000 and 500,000 were victims of rape

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) it is estimated that in 2011 alone there were 400,000 rapes. In the DRC the genocidal rape is focused on the destruction of family and communities. An interview with a survivor gave an account of gang rape, forced cannibalism of a fetus taken from an eviscerated woman and child murder. In the ongoing War in Darfur the Janjaweed militias have carried out actions described as genocidal rape, with not just women, but children also being raped, as well as babies being bludgeoned to death and the sexual mutilation of victims being commonplace.

Human trafficking 

Human trafficking is the trade in humans, most commonly for the purpose of sexual slavery, forced labor or for the extraction of organs or tissues, including surrogacy and ova removal. Trafficking is a lucrative industry, representing an estimated $32 billion per year in international trade. 

The facts:

-Estimates of human trafficking worldwide range from 20.9 to 27 million.

-The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that 68% are held in forced labor exploitation, 22% in forced sexual exploitation and 10% in state-imposed forced labor.

-The ILO estimates that women and girls comprise 55% of all those in forced labor and 98% of all those in sex trafficking 

-According to the ILO, 74% are adults and 26% are children under the age of 18.

There is more that can be said about this issue than a library could hold, but to truly understand the devastation of this evil called human trafficking, as well as all the other forms of violence against women, it is necessary to read women and children's first hand accounts

Marital rape 

Marital rape, also known as spousal rape, is non-consensual sex in which the perpetrator is the victim's spouse. It can be equally, or even more, emotionally and physically damaging than rape by a stranger. Once widely condoned or ignored by law, spousal rape is now repudiated by international conventions and increasingly criminalized. Still, in many countries, spousal rape either remains legal, or is illegal but widely tolerated, with the laws against it being rarely enforced. Traditional views on marriage which dictate that a woman must be (sexually) submissive to her husband continue to be common in many parts of the world. In one study in Haiti, 100% of the women interviewed did not consider forced sex by their husband as rape. In the US upwards of 15% of women have experienced spousal rape. Worldwide the numbers are mired in traditions that view women as property and punish them for speaking out against the patriarchal hegemony in marriage and sexuality.

Murder of Pregnant Women

Murder of pregnant women is a type of homicide often resulting from domestic violence. Pregnancy-associated death has become more commonly termed as pregnancy-associated homicide. and is he third leading cause of death for pregnant women. ABC News reported that about 20 percent of women who die during pregnancy are victims of murder but most sources put the rate at 10%. A Maryland study in 2001 in the Journal of the American Medical Association which found "a pregnant or recently pregnant woman is more likely to be a victim of homicide than to die of any other cause". These killings span racial and ethnic groups. In cases whose details were known, 67 percent of women were killed with firearms. Many women were slain at home — in bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens — usually by men they knew. Husbands. Boyfriends. Lovers. 

World wide the murder of pregnant women has been a function of genocide and warfare for centuries. And there are many documented cases of woman murdered and the unborn child in their womb being desecrated. Even in the event the woman wasn't killed for being pregnant, the psychological message to others is the same. No one, anywhere is safe.

Pornographic Violence

Research concerning the effects of pornography is concerned with multiple outcomes. Such research includes potential influences on rape, domestic violence and child sexual abuse. Viewers of novel and extreme pornographic images become tolerant to such images.  

89% of scenes in the ten most popular pornographic videos in the US contained either verbal or physical aggression. 94% of that violence was directed at women. Many men who view these images say that one reason they are drawn to specific types of porn is to allow them to fantasize about the things they want to do in real life. Those that abuse women in a sexual violent way have admitted to viewing porn in almost 100% of cases.

"Two hundred twenty-two undergraduate males were administered an “attitudes survey” examining pornography use, attitudes, and self-reported likelihood of rape or using sexual force. Nonviolent pornography was used by 81% of subjects within the last year, whereas 41 and 35% had used violent and sexually violent pornography, respectively. Twenty-seven percent of subjects indicated some hypothetical likelihood of raping or using sexual force against a woman. Discriminant function analysis revealed that use of sexually violent pornography and acceptance of interpersonal violence against women were uniquely associated with sexual force and rape." (from an abstract of a larger work entitled "Violent pornography and self-reported likelihood of sexual aggression" by Dano DemarĂ©, John Briere and Hilary M. Lips)

Rape as corrective measure 

Corrective rape is a hate crime in which a person, usually a woman, is raped because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The common intended consequence of the rape, as seen by the perpetrator, is to correct their orientation, to turn them heterosexual, or to make them act more in conformity with gender stereotypes. The term was coined in South Africa after well-known cases of corrective rapes of lesbians like Eudy Simelane and Zoliswa Nkonyana became public. Often suspected lesbians are raped by heterosexual men with a goal of punishment of "abnormal" behavior and reinforcement of societal norms.The crime is sometimes supervised by members of the woman's family or local community. Corrective rape has also been known to occur in Thailand, Ecuador, and Zimbabwe. Corrective rape and the accompanying violence can result in physical and psychological trauma, mutilation, HIV infection, unwanted pregnancy, and may contribute to suicide.

Sexual slavery 

Sexual slavery is slavery by means of sexual exploitation. Sexual slavery may include single-owner sexual slavery, ritualistic slavery sometimes associated with certain religious practices, such as devadasi in India and trokosi in Ghana/Togo/Benin, or forced prostitution. Sex trafficking is the most prolific type of sex slavery involving the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbor or receipt of persons, by coercive or abusive means for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Where that person is unable to leave through threat of violence or physical captivity, it would be considered sexual slavery in the strictest sense, but all sexual exploitation is generally considered sexual slavery. Woman are victims well over 90 percent of the time. With minor girls making up almost a third of that number.

There are over 100,000 women working as sex slaves in Turkey, of which half are children, a non-governmental organization has revealed in an extensive report on prostitution in the country.

Violence Against Prostitutes

In 2004 the homicide rate for female prostitutes in the United States was estimated to be 204 per 100,000. This figure is considerably higher than that for the next riskiest occupations in the United States during a similar period (4 per 100,000 for female liquor store workers and 29 per 100,000 for female taxicab drivers). 

Perpetrators include violent clients, pimps, and corrupt law-enforcement officers. Prostitutes themselves often take their clients to out of the way places where they are less likely to be interrupted, which is very convenient for their attackers. Being criminals in most jurisdictions, prostitutes are less likely than the law-abiding to be looked for by police if they disappear, making them favored targets of predators. According to a study conducted on one hundred and thirty people working as prostitutes in San Francisco, as adults in prostitution, 82% had been physically assaulted, 83% had been threatened with a weapon and 68% had been raped while working as prostitutes. 

This small list of terms by no means claims to be comprehensive, but is a precursor to a greater understanding of the dangers women face worldwide every second of everyday. There are no excuses that can be made for any of the violences listed above. We must choose today to protect the female species. She is and always will be the human element at the heart of the best of us, the deep tender inner strength of us, the compassion and conscience that makes this life more beautiful.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Human Trafficking Of The Mentally And Physically Disabled

There are few facets of human trafficking that are more desperately evil than the exploitation of the mentally and physically disabled. It has been a subject that we have touched on at COH before. But since that time there have been numerous documented cases of the trafficking of disabled persons. Whether this is a testament to the added scrutiny from governmental and non-governmental agencies in chronicling the phenomena or it is the rate at which these truly vulnerable people are being exploited, is not clear. What is painfully clear is this is one of the most gut-wrenching, cruel and horrific injustices in the world today.

In the 2012 T.I.P. report the US State Department outlines the issue this way:

"This Report includes recent reports of the abuse of deaf domestic workers in the United Kingdom, addicts forced to labor in fields in the United States, people with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities enslaved in Chinese kilns, and persons with developmental disabilities forced to work as peddlers on the streets of India. Persons with disabilities remain one of the groups most at risk of being trafficked. Due to disability-based discrimination and exclusion common in many places, however, governments often ignore this risk factor or fail to make provisions for persons with disabilities as part of anti-trafficking efforts.

The stigma and marginalization of a person with disabilities creates a particular vulnerability. For example, parents who see no hope of jobs or marriage for their disabled children may place those children in exploitative situations with the intent of shedding a “burden” or seeking income. Where schools fail to accommodate students with disabilities, high drop-out rates leave them on the streets and at much higher risk of being trafficked in forced begging or other criminal activities. The commonly held view that persons with disabilities are not sexually active increases the risk of sex trafficking for persons with disabilities, especially disabled women and girls. For example, a Global HIV/AIDS survey conducted by the World Bank and Yale University showed that women and girls with disabilities were assumed to be virgins and thus targeted for forced sex, including by HIV-positive individuals who believed that having sex with a virgin would cure them.

Societal barriers limit the access of persons with disabilities to systems of justice. Lack of training of police, prosecutors, and judges on how to accommodate persons with disabilities (through, for example, sign language interpreters, plain language, and physical access) can leave victims with disabilities unable to provide effective statements and report the abuse they have endured. Laws expressly prohibiting people with disabilities from being witnesses, especially those who are blind, deaf, or have mental or developmental disabilities, leave such victims excluded from processes that should provide them with redress. Even when the justice system is not to blame, societal prejudices that devalue or discount the experiences of persons with disabilities can mean that their evidence is given less weight, and that sentences given to perpetrators may be lower than comparable cases where non-disabled people are the victims. This exclusion of persons with disabilities from the justice system in turn contributes to their being targeted by traffickers, who might assume that such victims will be less likely to raise an alarm or seek help."

*(bold italic print emphasis ours)

In 2011 Newsline online reported "a 20-year-old disabled man Sajad Chadar was rescued by the Khairpur police as he was being kidnapped. Chadar was the victim of a gang involved in the abduction of individuals with disabilities for purposes of trafficking to Iran and other Gulf countries where they are forced into beggary." What police found was over two hundred disabled and child trafficking victims.

 Sajad Chadar, 20, abducted from Pakistan and forced to beg in Iran.
Mujahid Shaikh, a 25-year-old disabled man was also trafficked to Iran, but managed to return to Pakistan. He recounted for police “The kidnappers are ruthless; ...[t]here are hundreds of people with disabilities, including children, living in the custody of Kashmir Jafri in Iran."

The article goes on to state: "Shockingly, often the very people who are ostensibly the caregivers of the handicapped victims are themselves guilty of complicity in their ordeal. There is a standard modus operandus. After a disabled candidate has been identified – usually hailing from an impoverished family – the trafficker will develop a link with his parents or guardian, and entice them to partner with him in a business enterprise involving their son/charge. He offers them money – that too in advance – for their compliance."

In 2009 Chinese authorities arrested 10 men for trafficking 32 individuals with physical disabilities and forcing them to work in brick kilns in the Anhui province. (2010 T.I.P. Report) "The report echoes a major scandal in 2007, when Chinese media found least 1,000 people forced to work as slaves in brick kilns in Shanxi province, following a father''s desperate search for his missing teenage son. Many of the brick kiln slaves were mentally handicapped people, some of whom were so confused they did not know where they had come from, media reported at the time." (DNA)

In Danny Boyle's movie Slumdog Millionaire criminals take homeless children and force them to beg. And to add to the sympathy factor some of the children are forcibly blinded. This fictional account resembles all to closely the reality and embodiment of the philosophy behind the trafficking of persons into forced begging. A child or homeless person may elicit certain sympathies and a few pennies from a stranger but add to that dynamic a disability and the sympathy and spare change grow.

In her book Trafficking for Begging: Old Game, New Name author Iveta Cherneva states that in forced begging situations a handicapped child earns three times more than a healthy child. A survey by the Stop Child Begging Project in Thailand found that disabled children earn as much as 1000 baht a day, as opposed to a healthy child beggar who earns 300 baht a day. Well over 3 times as much.

While forced begging makes up a large percentage of the exploitation the disabled face around the world, sex-trafficking is also a very real, deeply disturbing reality for persons with disabilities. 

In a sex slavery case that U.S. Attorney Beth Phillips called "among the most horrific ever prosecuted". Four Missouri men who paid a fifth man to either watch him torture a mentally disabled woman online or torture her themselves; sexual and physical torture that lasted five years, until one of her abusers induced a heart attack while suffocating and electrically shocking her on Feb. 27, 2009. You can read the full horrific account here. It is deeply disturbing and NOT for the weak at heart. And reveals that the victim was 16 at the time her abuse began.

This March another Missouri man pled guilty to sex trafficking two women into prostitution, including a mentally disabled woman. Federal prosecutors say 26-year-old Carl Mathews of Breckenridge Hills forced the women into sex in the St. Louis area from 2010 through October 2012. Authorities say the mentally disabled woman was forced to sleep and use the bathroom in a closet, and was supplied with little food. The woman was also beaten and set on fire. ( Associated Press)

In a case study from the 2012 T.I.P. report Saeeda, a deaf Pakistani woman, was ten years old when she left Pakistan for Manchester, England for a job as a domestic worker. For nearly a decade, she was abused, raped, and beaten by her employers, a Pakistani couple. Now in her 20s, Saeeda told the courts that she was confined to a cellar and forced to work as a slave.

During the four years that investigative journalist Benjamin Skinner researched modern-day slavery for his book, "A Crime So Monstrous," he posed as a buyer at illegal brothels on several continents and says he is most haunted by an experience in a brothel in Bucharest, Romania, where he was offered a young woman with Down syndrome in exchange for a used car.

UNICEF reports, “[s]ocial beliefs about disability include the fear that disability is associated with evil, witchcraft or infidelity, which serve to entrench the marginalization of disabled people”  As a result, these children wind up in orphanages where they are much more susceptible to violence. Women and girls with disabilities are especially vulnerable to physical and sexual violence which puts them in danger of unplanned pregnancies due to sexual exploitation.

A child who requires assistance with washing, dressing and other intimate care activities may be particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse. Perpetrators can include caretakers, attendants, family members, peers or anyone who enjoys a position of trust and power (UNICEF, 2007).

Not only are disabled children dumped off into the system and stripped of their inalienable human rights, but as they grow up they are blacklisted from employment. (UNIAP, 2007).  In Cornell University’s 2007 Disability Status Report, they show that the employment gap between individuals with and without disabilities is 42.8%, in the United States alone (Baker, 2008). This enormous gap in employment exacerbates the vulnerability of poverty that these individuals experience by denying them access to a self-sustaining life with gainful employment. (

Along with superstition, religious pretense has often been used as a justification for exploitation. In India the devadasi are young girls given to the temple of the goddess Yellamma to serve as sex slaves. The disabled fall victim to similar practices of religious exploitation.

"Outside a Muslim shrine in a dusty Pakistani city, a "rat woman" with a tiny head sits on a filthy mattress and takes money from worshipers who cling to an ancient fertility rite.  Nadia, 25, is one of hundreds of young microcephalics -- people born with small skulls and protruding noses and ears because of a genetic mutation -- who can be found on the streets of Gujrat, in central Punjab province.  Officials say many of them have been sold off by their families to begging mafias, who exploit a tradition that the "rat children" are sacred offerings to Shah Daula, the shrine's 17th century Sufi saint.

Nadia, 25, and a microcephalic, seen here in July 2008, sits outside the Shah Daula's shrine in Gujrat, in central Punjab province. Nadia was just a young child when she was dumped at the shrine 20 years ago in the dead of the night. Her parents were never traced. (

According to local legend, infertile women who pray at Shah Daula's shrine will be granted children, but at a terrible price. The first child will be born microcephalic and must be given to the shrine, or else any further children will have the same deformity.

"Some of these children, the handicapped ones especially, are accompanied by relatives," he told AFP. "But begging gangs also look for poor parents who will sell them because they are a burden to feed and shelter."  Sohail said his department had busted more than 30 gangs across the province involved in exploiting street children, some of which had broken the limbs of children so that they would earn more as beggars." (AFP)

With current refugee crises around the world the disabled find themselves at extreme risk for trafficking. "Migrating may be particularly challenging for a person with a disability. In the context of forced migration, persons with a physical or mental disability may benefit less from early warning systems and may also be more easily disoriented during the process of flight. Assistive devices may be lost or left behind, creating another layer of vulnerability in an already dire situation. In addition, although denying an immigration application solely on grounds of disability (and leaving a disabled person isolated or permanently separated from their group) is a human rights violation , such cases have been recorded in different countries of the world." (The International Organization for Migration)


As always, from all of us at COH, thank you for being a voice for the voiceless. And when it comes to the most vulnerable among us, the children and the mentally and physically disabled, please let your voice be ever loud, ever clear, and ceaseless in its resolve. This evil must end, and in our lifetime. Please call the National Human Trafficking hotline 1-888-3737-888 if you suspect trafficking. Do not be afraid to ask questions or to speak up if something just doesn't seem right. And in the cases of the disabled remember their ability to communicate or even appreciate the severity and urgency of their situation may be severely inhibited or even totally compromised.