Human trafficking: The silent plague
11 November 2010
Her body was her enemy, his adolescence his……….
Human trafficking, a silent plague burning the lives of millions across the globe continues to inflict pain on mostly the innocent and the most vulnerable be it in powerful nations as such as the United States to Canada to lesser developed nations in Asia.
For countries which often boasts of equality, a woman is often prized for her body, a youth for his future. Despite continuous deliberations the world over to put a stop to this menace, which even ends in death, most governments around the world have failed miserably to put an end to this problem, let alone take steps to minimize the human trafficking even domestically.
For a country like Sri Lanka, which until recently battled with a quarter century long war, human trafficking specially domestically exists to date, mostly in rural areas where economic development is sparse and day to day survival is a gamble.
16 year old Leela and her 13 year old brother Kamal were living in a mud thatched hut in a rural village with their parents, so when a trustworthy neighbor approached them and promised them the best of the world in the country’s commercial capital, Colombo, their parents jumped at the idea without much questions, because not only were they getting ‘lots of money’ but it appeared that their children would have better living conditions.
The parents were offered a ‘grand’ Rs. 10,000 (US $ 100) for the two children.
Leela was to look after a 2 year old child while Kamal was to tend to gardening in a ‘palatial house’ he was suppose to be employed. Both children, who were attending a nearby village school, were promised an English standard education in Colombo at the cost of their masters, who they were to work for.
Despite the ‘fairytale’ life promised by the neighbor, both children refused to leave their village, and insisted they wanted to continue living with their parents and attending their school because that’s where all their friends were.
They were eventually forced by the parents to leave with the unsuspecting ‘uncle’. But when the two children did reach Colombo, no palatial house was in sight, neither a child to tend to, instead they were virtually thrown into a dingy room, which smelled of smoke and with stains all over, and a lone mattress in a corner.
They were fed with rice and a single vegetable for a few days and then one day transported to a dingy massage parlour, which housed some five other girls. Leela was dropped off, parted from her brother, who was sobbing and refusing to leave his sister alone, He was slapped by the driver and asked to shut up, while a dumbstruck Leela protesting silently and fighting back tears had no choice but to allow herself into a hell hole, she saw no turning back.
Her brother, Kamal was dropped off in a house which made begging a business. He was put up daily at various streets in Colombo where he was instructed to beg and the monies collected given over to the ‘master.’ The earnings were never shared and Kamal was only provided with 2 meals a day and rags for clothes.
Speaking at a workshop titled, “Corruption and Human Trafficking Unraveling the Undistinguishable for a Better Fight,” at the 14th International Anti Corruption Conference (IACC) Prof. Leslie Holmes from the University of Melbourne emphasized that trafficking is not necessarily illegal nor is it transnational.
“Public attitude towards people smuggling in source countries can be quite positive despite it involving deception,” he noted.
Victims of human trafficking are often seen as criminals rather than victims and their human rights a forgotten subject.
Often these victims are further victimized by the media who exposes them, sometimes even revealing their identity, but forgetting to mention the core reason why they resorted to such acts – poverty.
Despite law enforcement officers’ dealing with such issues regularly, Prof. Holmes disclosed that these officers were often not educated sufficiently on the matter.
Also often, police officers too have been directly or indirectly involved in human trafficking, not in Asian countries alone, but in more developed countries such as in the United States, where corruption is believed to be far more minimal.
In Peru, 78% of those who have been trafficked are for sexual exploitation while 15.4% are for forced labour.
While the general belief is that men are the culprits behind human trafficking in Peru, Ricardo Valdes from Capital Humano y Social Alternativo reveals that it is in fact women who play a major role in this illegal business in Peru.
“Because it is often easier for a woman to convince another woman,” Valdes said.
Despite the term ‘slavery’ being banished today, ironically still women are traded on a daily basis across the world, be it in South Asia, South East Asia, Middle East or even America.