Saturday, August 2, 2008

trafficking & prostitution

For the last four months, I have had two articles sitting in my inbox, marked unread, waiting for me to blog about them. Since today is my 'catching up on life' Saturday, I'm finally getting around to posting. As you might assume from the title, these articles aren't light and fluffy (but how often are my blog posts light and fluffy? have we met? :) ). In fact, I found the one to be absolutely shocking and the other very insightful. Anyway, here are the articles and some of my thoughts:

1. Author Struggles to Stay Removed from Slave Trade (NPR, 11 March 2008): This is the story of a journalist named Benjamin Skinner who spent some time researching the modern day slave trade. The most shocking thing I learned in reading this article was that, in 1850, purchasing a slave cost the equivalent of an upscale car, roughly $30,000-$40,000 today. In the early 21st century, child slaves are bought, sold, and traded for as little as $50. Disgusting.

Some of my thoughts: the article focuses on Haiti, which it says has one of the highest concentration of slaves in the world (I'm assuming per capita, but I'm not sure of their source so I can't verify that); the same is true in many South and Southeast Asian countries. Sometimes it is intentional - families sell their one or two of children so they can afford to purchase more seed and feed the rest of their families - and sometimes they are tricked into it: a man from the city comes and offers education, a job or other opportunity but then takes the children to a brothel or forced labor situation.
Often, especially in Haiti, when children are orphaned after their parents die of AIDS, their extended families or neighbors will take them in but only as domestic slaves. Again, disgusting, and the result of a complex system of poverty.

World Relief, International Justice Mission, the American Anti-Slavery Group, Hagar International, and myriad other organizations are working in various capacities to combat human trafficking. Check one (or all) of them out for more information. Another resource is the US Trafficking in Persons Report, updated annually, that rates every country on their government-based efforts to reduce human trafficking. Google it.

2. Do as He Said (NY Times, 13 March 2008): This Kristof editorial focuses on the debate surrounding legalized prostitution, written within days of the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal. The title is a bit tongue in cheek - Spitzer was vocal about cracking down on prostitution, but his stance on it apparently didn't translate into reality. Anyway, I wanted to post this article because of the way Kristof handled the issue. He admits to having been in favor of legalized prostitution for a long time (making the argument that 'it's going to happen anyway, so we might as well legalize it and enforce better standards'), until looking at how it has worked in other countries. In the Netherlands, legalization has allowed child trafficking, violence and drug activity to 'flourish'; in Sweden, however, where it is a crime to hire a prostitute, such activity has diminished.

Bottom line, I like his point about focusing on pimps and customers, rather than on the prostitutes themselves, because it has a greater potential to cut the demand. What do you think?

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