As many of you may know (or maybe you don’t know me so you have no idea) I am very passionate about advocating against the sexual exploitation and trafficking of women and children. This is an issue that I have studied more and more over the past 5 years and now desire to dedicate my life to. There are far to many people in the world today who do not know about this great epidemic and even more who have great misconceptions and do not understand much of what truly goes on around the world (and even in their very backyards!)
So, let’s chat about it – let’s become informed – and let’s break down our misconceptions. And let’s just start with some basic information and statistics…what’s the scope of the problem?
There are few things more devastating in the life of a child than the feeling of a total loss of control. To be kidnapped or sold into the hands of individuals you don’t know only to be abused and neglected. This is the life of a child caught in the grips of the sex trafficking crisis.
If there is one consensus among individuals involved with the sex trafficking crisis, whether they be scholars, government officials, or passionate advocates, it is that hard statistics are nearly impossible. While relevant statistics will seek to be presented, they must always be taken with a grain of salt because of the enormous underground nature of the sex trade. Although sex trafficking is a devastating problem no matter where in the world you look; some would argue Southern Asia to be among the worst of it. Since my hopes are to travel to Nepal to work with the sex trafficking crisis, I will focus a bit more on this area of the word.
The most common estimate is that somewhere between 700,000 to 4 million individuals are currently in sexual bondage. (Huikll, 2003; “Foreign Government Complicity in Human Trafficking, 2002). This large number can be broken up into many areas. The most recent estimates say that in the United States alone 20,000 individuals are brought in annually for purposes for sexual exploitation. (Masci, 2004; “Combating Human Trafficking”, 2005). In India some estimated that 2.3 million are currently in bondage. (2002 Trafficking in Persons Report). They go on to say that more than 200,000 girls are trafficked into the country each year, most of which are from Nepal. (2002 Trafficking in Persons Report; “Combating Human Trafficking”, “Country Reports on Human Trafficking Rights Practices – Nepal, 2005).
While some variation can be found in these statistics, many of them closely match with other research and sources like them. I find these statistics to be fairly reliable and trustworthy. As stated before, this crisis is hard to grasp so any numbers will be, at best, very good guesses.
There are many emotional, physical and psychological effects the experience of being trafficked will have on a child. Perhaps the biggest effect is the likelihood of contracting the HIV/AIDS virus. Young girls in brothels are having unsafe sex with multiple men a day. In many cultures men believe if they have contracted the AIDS virus and have sex with a virgin, the AIDS will go out of them and into the virgin, curing them of the virus. This has led to the trafficking of younger girls, as well as the spreading of the disease. A 2005 government report says up to 65% of women who come out of brothels are HIV positive. (“Country Reports on Human Trafficking Rights Practices – Nepal, 2005). In Cambodia, in 1992, an AIDS program found that “9.5% of female commercial sex workers were HIV positive. By September 1995, 37.9% were HIV positive.” (“Combating Human Trafficking”) This has the potential to create greater instability within countries as the AIDS crisis evolves and quickly becomes out of control. (2002 Trafficking in Persons Report).
Another area that affects children is the threat of retaliation.
Five convicted traffickers, who had been given 20-year sentences but were released within 3 years, attacked a 17-year-old girl living at the Women's Rehabilitation Center (WOREC). They attacked her after failing to find another woman, rescued from a 1996 Bombay brothel raid, who had filed a case against them. WOREC and other organizations involved in the rehabilitation of women who have been trafficked say their members have been threatened and their offices have been vandalized because of their activities. Despite the existence of anti-trafficking legislation and recent attempts to increase the imposition of penalties on traffickers, anti-trafficking legislation is not well enforced. (Trafficking Report on Nepal).
Many non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) have set up safe houses where children can go to find shelter and security while recovering from their trauma. However, most continue to live their lives in fear.
There are many reasons why children end up victims of the sex trade. One of the greatest problems is the lack of education. Most frequently this affects a child living in poverty. The pressures of poverty can cause either parents or the child themselves to succumb to drastic measures. Sometimes a family is not even aware of the torment they are placing a child in. (2002 Trafficking in Persons Report; Masci). Many individuals are told that they have job opportunities awaiting them: they leave home hoping to be an actress, waitress, model, nanny or factory worker; many times in the United States. However, they are kidnapped and taken into the brothels instead where they are forced into sexual slavery. (Masci).
Another sad realization is that many times children fall victim to corrupt officials and authorities. Cultural bias can play into this corruption and discrimination – especially in cultures with caste systems or a low view of women. (2002 Trafficking in Persons Report; Trafficking Report on Nepal). The NGO’s estimate (although unverified) that “50% of victims were lured into India with the promise of good jobs and marriage, 40% were sold by a family member, and 10% were kidnapped.”(Trafficking Report on Nepal).
This is a most unfortunate situation. This is a desperate and seemingly hopeless situation. Only God is big enough to rescue and rehabilitate the number of those who are suffering in sexual slavery today.