Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ending Child Trafficking through Prevention

From the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution by Jonathan Todres:

As Haiti grapples with numerous tragedies following its recent earthquake, another horror story has emerged: Many children left homeless there now risk being trafficked. Only this is not a natural disaster, but one created entirely by humans.

Child trafficking is not new to Haiti, or to any other part of the world. It is a global phenomenon that victimizes millions of children, including many here in the United States. . .

Over the past decade, the United States and many other governments have taken significant actions to combat human trafficking, but their approach is flawed. Little attention is paid to the ultimate goal — prevention. In all my research over the past decade, I haven’t found any evidence suggesting that child trafficking has declined. . . In fact, it might be increasing.

Although the international community has agreed upon a sensible, comprehensive three-pronged approach to combating trafficking, often referred to as the three P’s — 1. punishment of perpetrators; 2. protection of victims; and 3. prevention — in reality governments have focused primarily on the first step and, to some extent, on the second. . .

Prevention, however, has been largely ignored, even though without it we will be caught in an endless cycle of chasing perpetrators and providing victims services after the harm to children has already occurred.

Read the full article here.

Like Todres, I think that we need to increase the discussion about prevention, both because it is often ignored or dealt with lost and because it is vitally important to completely eradicating slavery. As Todres notes, this conversation must include efforts to address the ways we contribute to slavery, particularly in our choices as consumers. Todres' points about engaging many different sectors, from health-care workers to law enforcement to corporations to the education sector, are also well taken. I would argue, though, that we must also make sure that survivors themselves and people at risk for trafficking take a leading role in this discussion. Prevention may not be the most glamorous of the "three Ps," but it's one that we must more seriously and actively address if we want to end slavery.

Photo taken by Kay Chernush for the State Department.

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