Sunday, April 22, 2007

More on Modern Day Slavery

One of my favorite liberal columnists is Nicholas Kristoff of the New York Times. We both grew up in Oregon at about the same time, but I think that the reason I most enjoy Kristoff is that he uses the powerful pulpit of the New York Times op-ed pages to focus on issues of great moral importance that otherwise get largely ignored by Americans

Today's column is no exception As he has done before, Kristoff has written a powerful and moving column about "human trafficking"--modern day slavery for both sex and labor. As I have written before, it is an outrage that there are millions of people (mostly young girls) sold into slavery, and yet we turn a blind eye.

Here are some highlights from today's column:


Anyone who thinks that the word “slavery” is hyperbole when used to describe human trafficking today should meet Meena Khatun. She not only endured the unbearable, but has also shown that a slave trader’s greed sometimes is no match for a mother’s love.


Human trafficking is the big emerging human rights issue for the 21st century, but it’s an awful term, a convoluted euphemism. As Meena’s story underscores, the real issue is slavery.


Meena was kidnapped from her village in north India by a trafficker and eventually locked up in a 13-girl brothel in the town of Katihar. When she was perhaps 11 or 12 — she remembers only that it was well before she had begun to menstruate — the slaver locked her in a room with a white-haired customer who had bought her virginity. She cried and fought, so the mother and two sons who owned the brothel taught Meena a lesson.


“They beat me mercilessly, with a belt, sticks and iron rods,” Meena recalled. Still, Meena resisted customers, despite fresh beatings and threats to cut her in pieces.
Finally, the brothel owners forced her to drink alcohol until she was drunk. When she passed out, they gave her to a customer.


When she woke up, Meena finally accepted her fate as a prostitute. “I thought, ‘Now I am ruined,’ ” she remembered, “so I gave in.”


Meena thus joined the ranks of some 10 million children prostituted around the world — more are in India than in any other country. The brothels of India are the slave plantations of the 21st century.


Every night, Meena was forced to have sex with 10 to 25 customers. Meena’s owners also wanted to breed her, as is common in Indian brothels. One purpose is to have boys to be laborers and girls to be prostitutes, and a second is to have hostages to force the mother to cooperate.

If you have a subscription to New York Times Select, read it all. Kristoff proceeds to tell the story of Meena's escape, her efforts to save her children, and the indifference of the authorities.

By the way, if you think this happens only in countries like India, read this Bob Herbert column about sex slavery in Queens. And if you live in Arizona, contact your legislator and ask them to support Senate Bill 1268, a bill that will increase the penalties for those who promote child prostitution--a bill that is having a very difficult time getting through the Arizona legislature.

5 comments:

christine said...

an interesting post. Sex slavery in the UK is now something that seems to involve eastern europeans. Albanian gangs seem to be at the heart of it and bring over women from the Easter European countries not in the EU,

Prositutes are people we don't usually notice, and by the very nature of things, traficked women and girls are even less seen.

The tragedy is that men are willingto save to go to countries in the far east where they feel that they are more likely to get away wiht what they want to do.

Chuck Blanchard said...

christine:

Thanks for your comment. I think that uyour observations about the UK are applicable here in the US as well. Prostitution, particularly that involving trafficked girls and women goes unnoticed. As a result, little is done.

This is an issue on which the religious right has taken the lead, and very few liberals (such as Kristoff) notice. That needs to change.

Sammy said...

Sojourners magazine covered this in an article titled "Cry Freedom." This has been review in the blog http://murphmyers.blogspot.com/
Another resource is Tim Jefferson of the Arizona League to End Regional Trafficking. According to US Dept. of Justice most of the 17,000 slaves to enter the US come through the Mexico/Arizona border. The numbers are very troubling. Jefferson's organization has way to get involved to help the problem. There's more information on my latest blog entry.

Chuck Blanchard said...

Sammy:

Thanks for all of this information. I am pleased to see a local organization working on this issue!

Chuck Blanchard said...

"Sammy":

And, by the way, I love your blog! It is great to see how many Trinity bloggers there are out there!