Monday, May 03, 2010

Child Trafficking

Introduction: Trafficking in children takes many different forms worldwide, from child soldiers to child sex tourism to forced child labor in brick factories to child camel jockeys to child sex slaves to child pornography to child domestic slaves to forced child begging. Ending child slavery and child exploitation will take committed, strategic effort based on understandings of the myriad forms of child trafficking and their interconnections.

Elise: Before the TVPA was ever enacted in the U.S., a case out of Texas showed the complexity that is often overlooked when we talk about children and trafficking. Given Kachepa, along with other boys from Zambia were brought to the U.S. under false pretenses offered to them by a Baptist minister claiming the young boys would come to the U.S. to perform in a boys choir and earn money for themselves and for a new school in Zambia. The reality the boys faced included forced performances, the withholding food and medical care if the boys resisted and the constant threat of deportation among other coercive and traumatic tactics used by Keith Grimes to keep the boys in their trafficking situation. A more detailed account of the case is given in The Slave Next Door by Kevin Bales and Ron Soodalter. Years after his trafficking situation ended, Given has taken to advocating on behalf of trafficking victims. He has appeared on national TV and print media delivering his message and his story, and has contributed to the development of state-level legislation.

Youngbee: Among the many different forms of child trafficking, a particularly terrible kind is child trafficking involving child pornography. In Japan, for instance, Jake Adelstein, a public relations representative in Polaris Project in Japan, describes child pornography as "evidence that a crime has been committed[;] that people can derive sexual pleasure from that or profit on that is horrifying." These children are not only sexually exploited but also their humiliation is likely to be publicized on the internet forever. What is worse is that the internet access makes this evil an average Joe's concern in the United States. In fact, a British internet watchdog says that over the past ten years, 51% of such illegal child pornography websites were hosted in the United States. Currently, in Japan, possession of child pornography is not illegal though distribution and production are criminalized. As Japanese government is sensitive to its reputation before the international world, perhaps, US citizens calling their state representatives would pressure the country to fix its legislative loophole further.

Meg: One child trafficking topic that seems to have received a lot of attention recently is trafficking and international adoptions. The issue came to the forefront after the Haiti disaster, when it became suspected that children disappearing from hospitals were being taken by traffickers and sold off as orphans. Learning about this form of trafficking was disheartening to me, because apparently even those trying to do something positive can inadvertently contribute to child exploitation and human trafficking. Although there does not appear to be much in the way of statistics on this issue yet, it is easy to see how traffickers could exploit situations such as the disaster in Haiti to make a profit off of vulnerable children, not only through international adoption, but for sex trafficking and other forms of trafficking as well. One interesting potential solution to the adoption problem is the idea of using DNA databases to reunify parents with missing children, which is something that has begun to be implemented in Haiti. If the Haiti situation prompts development of an international adoption DNA system that can be used to prevent future trafficking, this may be one positive result of a tragic disaster.

Jenn K.: According to the 2009 Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking report by Shared Hope International, over 100,000 US children are subjected to commercial sexual exploitation each year. The Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the United States Department of Justice reports that the average age for entering commercial sex in the US is 12-14. Despite progress in addressing this aspect of the United State's trafficking problem, such as programs targeting demand and increased attention to the issue, much remains to be done particularly in terms of services for victims and survivors. According to Gracehaven House, which will be opening a group home for child sex trafficking survivors in Ohio, there are only 39 shelter beds dedicated to minor sex trafficking victims in the US. Other organizations, such as Courtney's House in Washington DC, are also in the process of opening group homes for child victims. Both Gracehaven House and Courtney's House were founded by survivors of sex trafficking as minors, and plan to offer comprehensive services for survivors. Still, the shelter need greatly exceeds and is likely to continue to greatly exceed resources.

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