A recent news story from New Delhi, India quickly caught my attention. It had to do with the trafficking and selling of children. That in itself is shocking enough, but the story went on to explain that these children were often sold for amounts of money much lower than the cost of most animals.
“Children are purchased like buffaloes,” said Bhuvan Ribhu of the Save the Childhood Movement. “While buffaloes may cost up to 15,000 rupees ($350 American), children are sold at prices between 500 and 2,000 rupees ($12 and $45 American).” He went on to tell the story of two brothers who were recently “given away for 250 rupees each, or $6 in American money.”
As much as we in America do not want to recognize it, children are now being treated like a commodity on the black market. Sometimes they are simply relocated within their own country. More often they are moved across borders. They are sold for purposes like forced labor, prostitution, pornography, organ removal, or even as child soldiers. They are in high demand as cheap domestic labor, for farm work, and especially for sexual exploitation. Some girls, as young as 13 years of age, are sold as mail-order brides where they are isolated, abused, raped, and subjected to various forms of torture.
Sometimes children are gently persuaded to comply by members of their own family or by friends, with promises of a better life. Other times, they are forced or coerced. Sometimes they are simply tricked or drugged into submission.
Rough estimates indicate that children account for between 40 and 50 percent of all human trafficking victims, for as many as 1.2 million children.
Often, because sexual activity is considered a private matter, authorities are even reluctant to intervene, even in cases of obvious sexual exploitation. Technological advances like the Internet, which has made child pornography easy to obtain, has also added to the problem. Even more outlandish beliefs like AIDS can be cured by having sex with a virgin only further muddy the waters, adding to the vulnerability of children.
Statistics by UNICEF report that:
- Between 30 and 35 percent of all sex workers in . . . Southeast Asia are between the ages of 12 and 17.
- More than 16,000 Mexican children are engaged in prostitution.
- Between 20 and 50 percent of Lithuania prostitutes are believed to be minors.
- Children as young as 11 have been found working as prostitutes.
- Children as young as 10 years of age have been used to make pornographic photos and/or movies.
Both the children and their families are almost totally unaware of any danger. In fact, most parents honestly believe that they are sending their children somewhere to live better lives in other countries where they will be able to find gainful employment. Instead, trafficked children face a wide variety of dangers including physical, emotional, and mental abuse. Some are even arrested and held as illegal aliens.
Unfortunately, child trafficking has become a lucrative business that is directly linked with highly organized criminal activity. It is well hidden underground and very difficult to find and deal with. This makes even the strictest laws against child trafficking hard to enforce.
A myriad of child protection groups and agencies have stepped forward to help deal with this issue, when the authorities can” – – or won’t. These include organizations like UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Child Trafficking (.com), and Human Rights Watch (.org). For more information on this topic, or to lend your support, contact one or more of these groups. Together, we can make a difference and help to stop this horrendous crime.