Breaking the wall of silence – Every Child Matters
We are all entitled to a basic set of human rights despite our color, age, social status, gender or whatsoever the distinction may be. One then wonders why there are more slaves today than there ever were…
If human beings are not property, then why are we shy to reaffirm the inherent dignity of children and prosecute people who make a living out of controlling lives with violence and abuse.
In this article, I will address one facet of human rights abuse; human trafficking and analyze the process and its effects on children; its chief victims. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child formulates that every child is entitled to a basic set of rights. Yet, millions of children worldwide are continually subjected to forces of violence and exploitation. Children caught in the voracious web of trafficking are deprived of their basic growth needs, like education and good nutrition and are most commonly forced into prostitution, slavery and detention in foreign countries as aliens.
What are some of the most common forms of child abuse? What trigger forces are conducive to Human Trafficking and child exploitation? What has and is being done to alleviate this global humanitarian dilemma?
“Slavery was, in a very real sense, the first international human rights issue to come to the fore. It led to the adoption of the first human rights laws and to the creation of the first human rights non-governmental organization. And yet despite the efforts of the international community to combat this abhorrent practice, it is still widely prevalent in all its insidious forms, old and new. The list is painfully long and includes traditional chattel slavery; bonded labour; serfdom; and forced labour, including of children, women and migrants, and often for the purpose of sexual exploitation, domestic servitude and ritualistic and religious reasons…. (Kofi Annan)
- Domestic Slavery – Children are often smuggled to become modern day slaves in restaurants and homes.
- Prostitution – The most common destination for trafficked children and women is brothels.“The women and girls from China, the Lao PDR, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam were smuggled into the United States for fees ranging from $30,000 to $40,000, which they were forced to pay back by working as prostitutes” (UNICEF, 2001).
- Child labor – A number of children are forced into street trading, begging and working in factories. “Much of the internal trafficking within Lao PDR involves factory work, and most trafficking victims have to work long hours with little if any compensation for over-time” (UNICEF, 2004).
- Drug trafficking and smuggling – Children are also used as agents of drug trafficking across borders. If caught in a foreign country, the children are charged for illegally trafficking drugs and for illegal residency.
Below are some statistics on Human Trafficking:
- “An estimated 1.2 million children are trafficked every year, and 2 million are believed to be exploited through prostitution and pornography” (UNICEF, 2004).
- “Approximately one-third of global trafficking in women and children occurs in or from East Asia and the Mekong sub-region in particular” (UNICEF, 2004).
- “Value of trafficking from Thailand to Japan, Germany and Taiwan could reach to US$ 3 billion” (Truong 2001).
There are a number of interrelated factors that stimulate and sustain the global human trafficking calamity and they need to be effectively addressed to eliminate this issue from its grassroots. For an absolute eradication, we need a multidimensional strategy, like the Millennium Development Goals addressing not only the broader human rights umbrella, but other essential factors as well, like poverty and illiteracy. For instance foreign aid should be allocated towards education programs to further human development and sufficient legal measures need to be present to ensure the International Conventions are being implemented nationally and financial sectors are effectively managing the aid funding.
Despite Human Trafficking being highly sensitive and complex phenomena, a collaborative global action might offer the solution, where developed countries work alongside developing nations and International institutions to eradicate this humanitarian crisis. There will always be challenges in the way of effectiveness, but we need to keep trying. For the children of today to become successful leaders of tomorrow, we need to help them rebuild their identity. An identity, which is not linked to slavery.
In the next edition of this article, I will be analyzing some of the trigger factors, barriers that prevent prioritization of Human rights violations, as well as possible resolutions.
“The disturbing tendency to treat prostitution as a business or industry not only contributes to the trade in human beings, but is itself evidence of a growing tendency to detach freedom from the moral law and to reduce the rich mystery of human sexuality to a mere commodity.” (Pope John Paul II)