Earlier this month I wrote a post about the church missionaries in Haiti who had been detained on trafficking charges for attempting to take children out of the country illegally.
In India, recently such actions have come under more intense scrutiny, with a rising number of child traffickers disguising themselves as missionaries in order to gain trust. Northern India is a region of the country with a large Christian population, and traffickers are exploiting this in order to present themselves as evangelists or missionaries who promise a better future for children.
It is believed that the children, aged from around six to 15, are being taken to unregistered children’s homes where they are kept in poor conditions and made to do menial work like cooking and laundry. There have been reports of children dying in suspicious circumstances and of others being molested and abused.
“These institutions exploit religion to make money. With many of them not registered with the government, the homes escape scrutiny,” Vidya Reddy of Tulir of the Centre for Prevention and Healing of Child Sexual Abuse was quoted as saying by Times of India. You can read the full story here.
In other, more uplifting news, some children in India have taken it upon themselves to conduct studies and report to the UN on the status of child rights in the country. Since 1992, the Indian government is required to submit a report on child rights to the U.N. After waiting more than a year to be heard and accounted in this report, at least 27 children from the state of Gujurat took matters into their own hands, surveying more than 700 children and writing their own report.
This alternative report focused on four predominant children’s rights: right to survival; right to develop; right to protection against exploitation and right to participation. Children across state complained that doctors were missing from the government clinics in their community; shared their frustration against caste discrimination in schools. They were also agitated due to inefficiency in distribution of school meals and sanitation on school campuses.
Surely this strong action to ensure that their voices are heard is a step in the right direction, for demanding the rights to which they are entitled.
Big World Magazine just published my article about former child laborers. Titled “Shooting Child Slavery,” the article recounts the story of these previous child slaves who went on to become award-winning filmmakers.
Ashikul Islam and Sahiful Mondal lived at a home for destitute boys in Calcutta. In 2004, the two 10-year-olds made a short independent film called “I Am,” which created a worldwide stir.
Their film won a Grand Prize at the International Children’s Film Festival in Athens, grabbed the attention of the Australian press, and was even featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show. “I Am,” about growing up from the childrens’ point of view, starred only other children.
It was an unlikely turn in the filmmakers’ difficult lives.
Sahiful had been put into indentured slave labor at age 4, after his father died of tuberculosis. With their mother suffering from a mental illness, this tiny boy and his siblings had to figure out how to survive. Ashikul was orphaned at four years old, and soon after began surviving by doing odd jobs at tea stalls and begging. Eventually, Ashikul worked in a leather factory.
The boys were rescued, and brought to the orphanage Muktaneer (the word means “Open Sky” in Hindi). There they began receiving four good meals a day, were given their own beds, went to school, and were allowed to play for the first time in their lives.
The story of these boys is incredibly inspiring – as are other former child laborers, such as Om Prakash, who himself became an advocate against child labor and went on to be awarded the International Peace Prize for Children.
You can read the full story at Big World Magazine.
One of my favorite organizations, Change.org, has recently posted a list of five corporations who have dedicated time, money and corporate practices to the fight against human trafficking and slavery. It was written by Amanda Kloer, and you can read the full article here. This is their list – good information to know!
1.) MTV: It may be common knowledge that MTV rarely plays music videos these days, but what’s less known is that the network has devoted an entire campaign to the issue: the EXIT campaign. They have have created a ton of documentaries, short films, and original videos, many of which have been featured here. The best part of the EXIT campaign is that they combine accuracy with that cool/young/hip MTV look and feel. (On a related note, check out this awesome Radiohead music video for “All I Need” that brings attention to child labor – you can also watch at the bottom of this post)
2.) LexisNexis: Known by attorneys, students, and academics as a comprehensive database, LexisNexis has also created an online legal resource center, with information about anti-trafficking laws and policies all around the world. In additional, they provide direct financial support for organizations and events around the world aimed at raising awareness of the existence of human trafficking.
3.) Microsoft: Bill and Melinda Gates may have more money than God, but at least they’re using it for a great cause. They recently awarded anti-trafficking NGO International Justice Mission $5 million to create a replicable model of combating sex trafficking. Additionally, the Microsoft Corporation has partnered with NGOs around the world, and has worked with other NGOs to prevent Microsoft products from being used to exploit children sexually.
4.) Carlson Companies: The owners of the Raddison and T.G.I.Friday brands, among others, has made a worldwide commitment to preventing child sex trafficking in their hotels, restaurants, and tour companies. They were the first U.S.-based company to sign the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism, which involved taking advanced steps to eliminate child trafficking.
5.) Manpower, Inc.: As a worldwide employment services corporation, Manpower, Inc. is in a great place to call on over 1000 of the world’s leading corporations to join the fight to end human trafficking. They have been extremely involved and supportive of the End Human Trafficking Now campaign and have committed have committed to the Athens Ethical Principles, a zero-tolerance policy toward human trafficking.
So the next time you have an opportunity to choose one of these companies over their competitors, please do so. They are truly committed to fighting human trafficking through their time, resources, and funding.
We must continue to involve corporations in the anti-trafficking effort, and support those which have already taken up the fight.
Radiohead video for MTV’s Exit Campaign
“Some Things Cost More Than You Realize”
In July, Nightline on ABC ran an investigative news story about child trafficking and slavery. The report, by Dan Harris, is focused on Haiti, which has over 300,000 children trapped in child slavery. As the story indicates, the irony is hard to miss. Haiti is an independent nation as a result of a slave rebellion that took place from 1791-1803.
Harris traveled to Haiti and met undercover with a trafficker, who assured him that he could easily procure a 10-year-old girl for him within hours, although he suggests that a 15-year-old might be better because she would be “better developed.” As Harris writes in his report, he thought, “I can’t believe I’m having this conversation.”
And how much would it cost him to buy this child? $300. Yet Harris is able to negotiate down to $150.
And the most disturbing thing is that, after the trafficker leaves, two waiters in the restaurant where the meeting took place approach Harris. The reporter fears he will be rebuked or shamed; but instead, the waiters offer to sell him a child as well.
Click here to view a slideshow of photos and stories of Haitian children sold into slavery.
Click here to visit ABC’s page to learn what you can do to help end child slavery.