Monday, November 05, 2007

Trafficking

The best I can tell, there are not a lot of people who have been “sold” here. That does not mean it does not exist, it is not in the paper and our friends are not aware of it. On the other hand, people being trafficked primarily into India, is a huge problem.

There are stories in the papers about how you are trafficked:


You are a child in a small village. Like most village children, you are quite poor. You, or a member of your family, meets a stranger. Over a period of time, weeks or months, you and your family becomes friendly with the person. Slowly they gain your trust.


The stranger is very helpful and says he has a friend who can give you a job in India. He will even give your parents some money. So many people go overseas to work here; money sent from family members abroad is a leading source of national income. Being a good kid and seeing the desperate family situation, you think it is a good idea. Your parents, being poor, a little ignorant and desperate, think it is a good idea, also. Sometimes the parents or relatives do not care and just sell you to make money.


So you go…you have just been sold without realizing. The nice man (it is usually men) brings you to India. If you are a boy, you will begin working long hours in a factory. Generally, the first few months you are working for free because you are in training. After a few months, you are earning a meager wage which mostly goes to pay off the fees that the owner of the factory has incurred to purchase you.


If you are a girl, your fate is much worse. Beauty is a curse when you are being trafficked and young women here are especially beautiful. You will be sold to a brothel. The head of the brothel, generally a woman, will explain that you have been sold. You are a virgin and you will now start having sex with strangers. New, young and beautiful, you will be busy…dozens of men in a day. You have no hope of escape. If you try to fight back, you will likely be resold...your debt and thus your time working as a prostitute will go up, too.


You do what you have to survive, except you may not because you will likely get a disease... a recent study showed that 40% of the girls who were forced into prostitution return HIV positive. This number rises to 60% for the girls who are 14 or under. The preteens are most popular with the clientel so they tend to be forced to stay in the business longer. Once you have paid your debts for being trafficked, you may be able to leave especially if your beauty has faded. You will return to your village. Your family will know what has happened and will ostracize you because of it. Sick and ostracized...seems harsh for a kid who was trying to help her family.

The Gap recently had a problem with a subcontractor using these slaves in their factory in India. From what I read in yesterday’s paper, they are trying to be a good corporate citizen and they are taking action and have had ongoing programs to try to prevent this. I am not certain that it is fair to single them out since an activist writing in yesterday’s paper wrote that the problem is widespread. He blamed people in the West for not questioning how they can get handmade items so cheaply. I am not sure I agree with his opinion, but I do agree that it is really terrible.

1 comment:

Kate M. said...

Thanks for this perspective. I have read of the Nepali women being trafficked throughout Asia and beyond. Really tragic. Are there organizations that try to educate the people about these recruiters? I'd like to think it would make a difference, but I've heard of several examples of the education working more as an advertisement.

I'm happy to hear that the problem does not seem to be too widespread where you are.

I'm also sorry to hear of your disappointment with the NGO you have been volunteering with.