Monday, January 11, 2010

Selling Children

FACT: two children are sold every minute.

Despite being outlawed by more than a dozen international conventions over the past 150 years, slavery still exists. Over 27 million people are enslaved today, meaning there are more slaves today than ever before in human history. TIME magazine defines slaves as “those forced to perform services for no pay beyond subsistence and for the profit of others who hold them through fraud and violence.” Slavery manifests in many forms in today’s world. One of the most prominent is human trafficking, which frequently leads to forced labor or sexual exploitation.

FACT: over 1.2 million children are trafficked annually.

The majority of females are trafficked into the commercial sex industry. Children in both the developed and developing world are used and exploited for sex, a lucrative business in some parts of the world. In some instances children are sold by family members, sometimes for as little as $10. Other children find themselves forced into prostitution due to destitute conditions, either trying to feed themselves or their families. Many are lured away from their homes by the promise of a job and a better life, only to find they have been sold to a brothel.

FACT: children as young as 5 are sold for sexual exploitation.

Gang rape, drug provision, sleep deprivation, and torture are used by traffickers to “break” new children into the sex trade in Bloemfontein, South Africa, according to a recent TIME magazine article. Forced abortions and unprotected sex are often part of the equation. In brothels in southeast Asia, “menus” are sometimes offered to clients, describing the children: “#145, age 7; this will be her first [x]; it will cost $100 to [x]”; “#144, age 11; [x] and [x] are OK. $200 for entire night, add $100 for extra [x].”

FACT: over 100,000 U.S. children are forcefully engaged in prostitution or pornography each year.

Trafficking in children is not limited to the developing world, where clients are sometimes attracted for “sex tourism.” The sexual exploitation of children also occurs in developed nations, such as the United States. In South Africa, the continent's wealthiest country and host of this year’s World Cup, as many as 38,000 children are trapped in the sex trade. Children in South Africa can earn more than $600 per night, and a recent TIME article revealed that many traffickers are “looking forward to doing more business” during the World Cup.

FACT: the United States spends more money in a single day fighting drug trafficking than it does in an entire year fighting human trafficking.

The Obama administration has pledged to make the issue a top priority. Thus far? No change. The South African president, as well, has pledged to fight human trafficking and the unexpected opportunities for trafficking created by hosting the World Cup. In many places of the world those fighting human trafficking, slavery, and the sex trade find themselves standing alone.

Over the past few days, the child sex trade has been brought to my attention in various – somewhat unusual – ways. This past weekend I attended a concert of eight local bands, both bands I saw play back in high school and bands who are just forming. The show was a benefit concert for Love146 (read more below). This week’s TIME magazine contained an article about the child sex trade in South Africa. Finally, I discovered that today is National Global Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
Please, take the time to acquaint yourself with the issues. There IS something you can do to help

Earlier blog on trafficking of human body parts: Trading in Humans
TIME magazine article: The New Slave Trade

Resources/ how you can help:

  • Love146: The vision of Love146 is the abolition of child sex slavery and exploitation. Begun in 2004, Love146 works for the prevention of child sex exploitation, to rehabilitate children rescued from exploitation, and to promote awareness. The organization is named for a little girl with a spark of life in her eyes, who was seen by the organization’s founders during an undercover investigation of child sex exploitation in southeast Asia. By the time the brothel was raided and shut down, child number 146 was no longer there.
  • ECPAT: End child prostitution, child pornography and trafficking of children for sexual purposes (ECPAT); a global network of groups and individuals fighting child exploitation.
  • Somaly Mam Foundation: Their mission is to give victims and survivors a voice in their lives, liberate victims, end slavery, and empower survivors as they create and sustain lives of dignity. They also sell items hand-made by survivors.
  • Molo Songololo: a children's rights group based near Cape Town
  • COFS: combating the sale of human organs

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