The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.
― Albert Einstein
Bring an End to Child Sex Trafficking. Now.
It is difficult to write about a topic like sex trafficking.
It is sad to list the stats, read the names of victims, and attempt to fully comprehend the experiences of children suffering so far away from where I sit today contemplating the fates of those actually living it.
It is difficult to write about a topic like sex trafficking. But it is necessary.
“Child Trafficking can be likened to modern-day slavery. Child victims of trafficking are recruited, transported, harbored, or received for the purpose of exploitation. Children are exploited and forced to work in brick kilns and sweatshops, on construction sites, in houses as domestic slaves, on the streets as child beggars, in wars as child soldiers, on farms for agriculture, in traveling sales crews, in the tourist industry in restaurants and hotels, in the commercial sex industry in brothels, strip clubs, and escort and massage services. Some of these conditions are easy to see, but most are hidden.” (www.unicefusa.org)
The Palermo Protocol (2000), defines human trafficking as the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of exploitation, and sex trafficking is regarded as a subset of human trafficking. The most at-risk population for sex trafficking are those with a history of trauma, under 18 years old, with limited education and a lack of family support. The targets for many traffickers are those youth in the child welfare or juvenile justice systems, runaways and homeless youth.
Real victims of child trafficking.
“I have a plan to bring my daughter back.” This courageous statement has more hope in it than Mirdase Girto ever knew as she was raised in a country with one of the highest rates of internal trafficking in the world. Ethiopia sees up to 20,000 children sold for as little as $1.20 to work as domestic workers or prostitutes each year. Sold into slavery…in the 21st Century.
Mirdase’s daughter, Birqe, was nine years old when a man came to their village from Addis Ababa and made false promises of sending her to school and supporting the family if she went with him to Addis Ababa. After three days, Birqe disappeared from her village and Mirdase learned that Birqe had been trafficked without her consent.
Her courageous statement is a powerful testament of finding hope for a better life and reunification with her daughter, whom she plans to educate with the rest of her children. These things were next to impossible before her participation in economic empowerment activities. Mirdase is a member of Gago Saving and Credit Cooperative established with the financial and technical support of the Anti-TIP Project.
Her hope is strengthened as PCI is partnering with the Ethiopian Ministry of Justice, police, and other NGO’s in scaling up efforts to address the issue of human trafficking in Ethiopia. It is a priority to battle the downward spiral into a life of sexual and physical abuse and exploitation when poor, rural children in Ethiopia become victims of child traffickers, who promise them a better future and then sell them into a life of even greater suffering.
“Trafficking is not just an issue that happens to people in other countries. The United States is a source and transit country, and is also considered one of the top destination points for child trafficking and child slavery victims. Cases of human trafficking have been reported in all 50 US. States” (National Human Trafficking Resource Center Report, 2011).
PCI is working to study the patterns of sex trafficking in Tijuana, and how it might address the need with a trans-border (U.S.) solution. Additionally, it hosts community information nights to show the movie,Indoctrinated: The Grooming of Children into Prostitution, and featuring talks from a San Diego sex trafficking survivor. The movie is available for school education and outreach efforts. For these at-risk youth, the lure of a glamorous life is powerful. “Two weeks of McDonald’s meals, nails and hair is usually enough to recruit the girls in the Life,” stated Susan Munsey of Generate Hope.
Research shows that most traffickers are increasingly sophisticated, transnational and oligopolistic in nature, including street gangs, cartels of mafias. The assessment highlights several needs and opportunities for PCI’s intervention:
- More safe/secure and appropriate housing for children under the age of 18
- Specialized treatment for unique PTSD from sex trafficking
- Outreach for boys/young men on how to respect women and girls
- Systematic primary prevention efforts that will stop the cycle before it starts
Are these measures enough to protect our world’s youth?
Sixty-three years ago on December 2, the United States General Assembly adopted the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, naming December 2 the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. Since then, trafficking in persons (TIP) has increased dramatically. There are more human slaves in the world today than ever before in history. The International Organization of Migration (IOM) estimated that 800,000 people may be trafficked across international borders annually and thousands more are trafficked within the borders of their own countries. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that 12.3 million adults and children are in forced or bonded labor, including sexual servitude, at any time. Lastly, more than 80% of TIP victims are women, and over 50% are children.
Clearly, more must be done.
Despite the efforts and measures listed above, why are a substantial number of our world’s youth being sold, coerced, and forced into child slavery? It seems to me, if we can hone in on the cause for such an increase, we can focus on killing these practices at the source.
Building on a successful anti-trafficking education program in Ethiopia and India, PCI plans to use its expertise with at-risk populations and social mobilization to help stop this epidemic. PCI sees its opportunity to address the issue in prevention, reaching out to at-risk populations about avoiding the dangers of sex trafficking. The initial study showed that “to date, there is no documented best practices research related to the prevention of human trafficking.” Since 1961, PCI has focused on vulnerable populations to improve health, safety and access to education. Its work with orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) has ranged from street children outreach to shelter homes and vocational programs.
PCI worked with Angela Bailey to execute a three-month assessment period with the following goals:
- Review of documents, publications, reports, and research studies related to human trafficking in San Diego
- Relationship mapping of all key stakeholders, including judicial/legal system, non-profit organizations, academic institutions
- Key informant interviews with targeted stakeholders such as law enforcement, victims/survivors of trafficking, advocacy and policy makers, funders, and experts.
- Engagement with core organizations or networks in the process of needs identification, establishing priorities and identifying opportunities
- Identification and assessment of various potential partners and donors
The work to put an end to child slavery and child sex trafficking continues. Awareness is a powerful first step. Awareness provides the bridge from one world to another. For example, my world typing at a computer aboutsex slavery compared to the very real world of children being subjected to all its harsh and clandestine realities. This is happening. Right now. We must act to exterminate such cruel acts; cruel acts from one person to another. To countless, innocent others. These crimes against children must end now.