By LENNOX FARRELL
I think that a death most tragic is not one which occurs before you have done your best work, but one which occurs before you started. I’ll conclude on this point. A decade ago, if you flew into the Philippines, Thailand etc., on airlines from Germany, France, the UK etc., the last 10 minutes on your monitor would be a video describing the destructive impact on children who are used for sexual purposes. It also described the crime in which you were involved and consequences back home when caught by trained agents on the ground.
During my tenure as a teacher, in one school we had a Social Justice Day set apart during which we brought in speakers on various issues: Native peoples and Residential Schools, Apartheid South Africa, etc. On one occasion, our main speaker was a passionate advocate for children abused sexually at home and abroad. Among the issues raised were the following: of children as young as three years old used as sexual objects; that most perpetrators were men who were among the power-brokering upper echelons of European and North American society; and that two countries still without legislation against this were the United States and Canada.
In 2009, Canada passed legislation. Then, MP Joy Smith of Manitoba introduced BILL C-268 – CHILD TRAFFICKING OFFENCE: An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum sentence for offences involving trafficking of persons under the age of eighteen years). It received broad support from stakeholders in the fight against human trafficking: including law enforcement, victims’ services, First Nations representatives and religious and secular non-governmental organizations. On June 29, 2010, Bill C-268 was granted Royal Assent and became law. The successful passage of a Private Members Bill is rare and it is only the 15th time in the history of Canada that a Private Members Bill amended the Criminal Code.
However, it took the U.S. five more years to gain similar traction. Supported by anti-trafficking coalitions that had supported his re-election, President Barack Obama’s Labor Secretary Hilda Solis took the matter to the Congress: “We consider the eradication of the worst forms of child labor to be a matter of urgency (and) no human being should work under conditions of forced labor or debt bondage or be forced to work under fear of punishment. Shining a light on these problems is a first step toward motivating governments, the private sector and concerned citizens to take action to end these intolerable abuses that have no place in our modern world.”
Following an earlier vote by the Senate against this abuse, in 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Trafficking Victims Re-authorization Act by a vote of 286 (Democrats and Republicans) to 138 (Republicans).
Why had these two countries taken so long? Part of the answer can be found in reasons why the U.S. had maintained its boycott of Cuba. In addition to vast political differences, one reason why the U.S. for a half-century took such a hard line against Cuba is because before Castro came to power, it was the default destination for wealthy Americans seeking deviant sexual acts with children. Mere hours away for weekends.
In this 21st century, slavery continues as it had been in the past: sexual slavery, child slavery, and forced labour. Also in some places, ritual slavery was practiced: that is, preferably using young virgins to be sacrificed in “snuff movies” and to “gods”.
In fact, the United Nations’ International Labor Organization (the ILO) has identified the prostitution of girls – aged 10-18 – as the most prevalent and the “Worst Form of Child Labour”. Slavery therefore continues today, not so much as chattel slavery, but as sexual and other contemporary forms of global slavery.
What about you? As much as you abhor it personally, how do other forms of slavery affect you today? In what ways, unintentionally, can your daily life be part of it? As candied walnuts and chocolate candies on your tables; as lilacs perfuming your home; as rugs adorning your dining room; as prison-produced furniture and your designer clothing. In other words, products which you probably use and which are likely created from child labour are: carpets, cocoa, chocolate, coal, diamonds, designer garments, rice, cattle, coffee, bricks, tobacco, sugarcane, cotton, gold, etc. If only your concerns were about the contents of processed foods!
And what, according to the United States Labor Department, are the revenues earned; the numbers of goods, types of products, countries, and children shackled in this nefarious trade:
- 32 billion dollars annual estimated revenues, placing human trafficking and enforced labour as the largest criminal enterprise, second only to the illicit drug trade, but on par with arms trafficking;
- 128 different types of goods come from approximately;
- 70 countries that in slave or bondage conditions, use the forced child labour of;
- 115 million children – 30 million of whom annually die and/or disappear – worldwide working in dangerous conditions that are hazardous to their health to produce such products as Christmas decorations, toys, clothes, footwear, fireworks; electronics, pornography, coal and construction material like bricks; food items like poultry, pork, sugar, nuts, rice, fruits, and vegetables; jewels and precious metals like diamonds, sapphires, gold and silver.
These forms of child exploitation use the following practices: slavery, forced labour and debt bondage; trafficking, and illicit activities like drug dealing; commercial sexual exploitation and armed conflict; and as well, hazardous working conditions, such as mining for precious metals or jewels in lakes filled with chemicals, etc. Slavery, particularly that of children, exists on every continent: Benin in sub-Saharan Africa, Brazil in South America, or Pakistan in Asia. It remains a lucrative business partly because living in the “developed world” in today’s global economy, you just cannot leave or stay at home without its benefits.
Slavery survives and thrives, too, because as the Anti-Slavery Society in its publication, What Is Modern Slavery states, “Although this exploitation is often not called slavery, the conditions are the same. People are sold like objects, forced to work for little or no pay and are completely at the mercy of their ‘employers.’”
With reference to my opening statement, and particularly too, if you are a person of African heritage, culture and ancestry, issues of slavery past and present should be of concern. You might want to take some positive action. Google “anti-trafficking organizations” for info, and view the following:
- A YouTube documentary: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajbQVwbWRg0
- Cocoa and slavery in 21st century Africa: www.youtube.com/watch?v=BeJy3dA4Ahk
- Documentary on human trafficking: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajbQVwbWRg0
- Movie: Trade of Innocents
- Web resource for combating human trafficking:
- Sexual slavery in Canada:
Finally, challenge your church, civic organization, golf partners, family and colleagues to get involved. It doesn’t have to be many people; just passionate people. Yes, it’s hard to begin but easier to continue with such people. Remember, too, that we are here because our ancestors cared enough to sacrifice for their freedom…and ours.
To be continued: Europe defined, Bach with brass-knuckles.