Friday, March 20, 2009

The loss of innocence

"You refuse to do it, but in the end you have to accept reality. You can run away, but where do you run to? You want to talk, but who do you talk to? You are totally confused."
-This was the plight of a young Nigerian girl who had been trafficked to Italy. When she realized that she had been lied to and that she would have to sell sex instead of working in a restaurant, as she had been promised, she cried non-stop for 5 days.

But Nigeria is not the only country perpetrating human trafficking, nor is it the only nation suffering from its effects. Child trafficking affects children throughout the world, in both industrialized and developing countries. Estimated figures of the number of people trafficked around the world every year are placed at one to two million people —mostly women and children.

Trafficked children are subjected to prostitution, organs/body part removals, forced into marriage or illegally adopted; they provide cheap or unpaid labor, work as house servants or beggars, are recruited into armed groups, and are used for sports. These involvements, exposes them to violence, sexual abuse and HIV infection, and violates their rights to be protected, grow up in a family environment and have access to education.This is the plight of millions of children worldwide who have become silent victims in international populations, forming the very heart of an international crime for which no reliable statistics are available to determine how big the problem really is.

In a flashback of the readings on the “Social Service Systems”, Zigler defines child abuse and neglect “as any action or lack of action, resulting in imminent risk or serious harm, death, serious physical or emotional harm , sexual abuse or exploitation …of a child…” The readings go on to discuss issues of physical, sexual and emotional abuse of children, most of which are relatively familiar to us. However no mention was made of child trafficking –a subject matter which as recently as fifteen years ago was relatively nonexistent in academic study; but is becoming increasingly relevant for students who will become lawyers, doctors, legislators and policy makers.

Trafficking of children is one of the gravest violations of human rights in the world today. Children and their families are lured by the empty promises of the trafficking networks, through false promises of a better life, an escape route from poverty; and every year, hundreds of thousands of children are smuggled across borders and sold as mere commodities.

Some grim facts:
-UNICEF estimates that 1,000 to 1,500 Guatemalan babies and children are trafficked each year for adoption by couples in North America and Europe.
-Girls as young as 13 (mainly from Asia and Eastern Europe) are trafficked as “mail-order brides.” In most cases these girls are powerless and isolated and at great risk of violence.
-Large numbers of children are being trafficked in West and Central Africa, mainly for domestic work but also for sexual exploitation and to work in shops or on farms. Nearly 90 per cent of these trafficked domestic workers are girls. Some children are sent as far away as the Middle East and Europe

The role of organized crime in human trafficking must really never be underestimated, as it is a highly lucrative business, with illicit profits annually estimated at US$32 billion (ILO Global Report for 2005). It is considered to offer the third largest source of income to organized crime, after small arms (weapons) and drug smuggling which are the two most lucrative forms of organized crime internationally.

In the U.S. Contrary to common assumptions, of the lack of the prevalence of child trafficking, cases have been reported in all 50 states and Washington D.C. , as well as in some U.S. territories. Victims include, U.S. citizens and foreign nationals. Children are trafficked to the United States for the purposes of sexual and labor exploitation; and an unknown number of U.S. citizens and legal residents are trafficked within the country primarily for sexual servitude and, to a lesser extent, forced labor.

Click on the links and watch the two brief videos:

So as unimaginable as it seems, slavery and bondage still persist in the 21st century. With the millions of children involved , trafficking in persons is clearly one of the greatest human rights challenges of our time-[The U.S Department trafficking in persons report, June 2003]

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