This is a very difficult subject for me to write about. When I started researching I was so sickened by what I read that I only intend to write a short article and leave you to do your own research.
Institutional slavery has been abolished in every country of the world. And yet slavery, in various forms, is still a blight upon the human race. Millions live in conditions of slavery, or near slavery. Many of these are children, and the worst form of slavery for those children is slavery in the sex trade. There are millions of children throughout the world who are treated as slaves and abused by their owners, by their customers and by society at large.
Child sex slaves exist in virtually every country of the world. The problem exists in developing countries and developed countries, in rich countries and the poor countries, in democracies and dictatorships. In terms of scale, countries like India and Thailand come to mind, but no matter which country we live in, we cannot afford to be complacent. Acute poverty exacerbates the problem, but children may be exploited in this way regardless of poverty.
Imagine a situation in India. A mother is struggling to bring up her children and provide for their needs. The situation is desperate: hunger and disease stalk the household. She tries moneylenders who charge extortionate interest rates. Unable to pay the debts, the moneylender offers to write off the loans if she would give her 12-year-old daughter to a contact who will “employ” her. The girl is taken to a brothel and held there against her will and forced to offer her “services” to male visitors.
Who is to blame here?
- Is it the mother who, faced with starvation or slavery, made the choice to sell her daughter?
- Is it the agent who paid for the daughter and then sold her on at a profit?
- Is it the brothel owners who abused her and held her against her will?
- Is it the customers who treated the young girl like a lump of meat?
- Is it the local police who, perhaps for a bribe, looked the other way and failed to act?
- Is it the politicians who failed to enforce robust laws or who failed to stamp out corruption?
- Or is it ordinary people, like you and me, who tolerate a world in which these things can, and do, happen?
What can we do?
What we can do about the situation depends very much on where we live and how much influence we have.
- We can campaign against corruption. In most countries adequate laws do exist, but corruption prevents their implementation.
- We can support organisations like the International Justice Mission. They campaign and take legal action in order to free children trapped in sexual slavery and to prosecute the abusers.
- Simply by making ourselves aware of the situation, and by our conversations and social interaction with other people, we can be part of a concerned majority which strengthens the hands of those actively involved in bringing about change.