Stolen Childhoods: The Haunting Faces of Human Trafficking

June 17, 2009

(ChattahBox)—Human trafficking is an insidious global problem that does not end at U.S. shores, with the financial crisis increasing the demand for slaves to work in mines, factories, brothels and as domestic maids in private homes. The sad eyes and work weary limbs of the children sold into slavery, oftentimes by their own families, tells the heartbreaking story of modern slavery.

The U.S. State Department released its annual Trafficking in Persons Report before Congress on Tuesday, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on hand to “…to shine the light brightly on the scope and scale of modern slavery…”

The report’s statistics are grim and are about to get worse. According to the International Labor Organization, at least 12.3 million adults and children are victims of forced labor, bonded labor and sexual slavery every year, and that figure is thought to be just the tip of the iceberg.

With the worsening global financial situation, the report predicts that more businesses will engage in the reprehensible practice of forced labor and insidious child labor, exploiting children as young as five years old, to avoid unionized labor and paying taxes.

The haunting faces of child slaves in forced labor are a common sight in many countries in Africa and Asia. Young children toil away for ten hours every day in coal mines in Northern India, making mud bricks in Liberia, and mining gold in the Congo. The problem is persuasive and far-reaching.

The countries with the worst record for human trafficking are placed on a “Tier 3” blacklist. The recent blacklist report included the African countries of Chad, Eritrea, Mauritania, Niger, Swaziland and Zimbabwe and the Middle Eastern countries of Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Syria.

North Korea, Myanmar and Fiji have earned a spot on the blacklist for many years now. Malaysia was placed on the blacklist for its trafficking of Burmese refugees.

The report highlights some of the personal and heartbreaking stories of modern slavery, which put a face on lost innocence and stolen childhoods.

A 10-year old Egyptian girl was purchased from a poor family by a wealthy Egyptian family and transported to their U.S. home in California. to work from dawn to midnight, mopping their floors and ironing their clothes. Shyima Hall, now 19 was kept locked up at night in a windowless garage room.

Xiao Ping, 20, of China who lived in a small village in Sichuan Province, was sold to a farmer to be his wife. She was imprisoned, beaten and raped for 32 months, becoming pregnant and giving birth to a son. Her family finally was able to borrow a large sum of money to buy her back, but she was forced to leave her 6-month-old son behind.

Her freedom came at a price. She was later forced to marry the man who loaned her family the money.

Perhaps one of the most heart-wrenching stories outlined in the report is one of three generations of the same family, forced to work as bonded laborers in a rice mill in India for 30 years. Jayati and her husband boiled rice every day from 2 a.m. to 6 p.m., often suffering burns, injuries and illnesses.

Their children were forced to quit school and work with their parents in the mill. Their grandchildren were eventually born there into bonded servitude. An entire generation born, raised and in forced labor from practically the moment of their birth. Finally, after 30 years in servitude, the family was freed by a local NGO.

One way to combat the growing horror of human trafficking is to continually shine the light on the problem. “Trafficking thrives in the shadows, and it can be easy to dismiss it as something that happens to someone else, somewhere else. But that’s not the case,” said Clinton.

Shining the light on the problem is a start, but the haunting faces of child laborers cry out for more help.

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One Response to “Stolen Childhoods: The Haunting Faces of Human Trafficking”

  1. Stolen Childhoods: The Haunting Faces of Human Trafficking Adding Info on June 17th, 2009 12:53 pm

    […] homes. The sad eyes and work weary limbs of the children sold into slavery, oftentimes … Read Full Post: Stolen Childhoods: The Haunting Faces of Human Trafficking Adding Related Info:Financial crisis adding to human trafficking¬† – ONE NewsFiji, a source of […]

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