This stunning statement was released by the FBI: “It’s sad but true: here in this country, people are being bought, sold, and smuggled like modern-day slaves. They are trapped in lives of misery—often beaten, starved, and forced to work as prostitutes or to take grueling jobs as migrant, domestic, restaurant, or factory workers with little or no pay. We’re working hard to stop human trafficking—not only because of the personal and psychological toll it takes on society, but also because it facilitates the illegal movement of immigrants across borders and provides a ready source of income for organized crime groups and even terrorists.”[i]
Child trafficking is not only a public health problem, but it is also a horrendous and heinous clandestine activity that is threatening the fiber of our civilization. This practice transcends cultural and national boundaries although it is more endemic in some countries than in others. This is a global epidemic fostered by greed and an impudent disregard for human rights. The International Labor Organization describes child trafficking as “taking children out of their protective environment and preying on their vulnerability for the purpose of exploitation.” The ILO further claims that there are approximately between 980,000 to 1,225,000 children of both genders in forced labor situations across the world as a result of child trafficking.[ii] These are conservative statistics. The numbers could be higher.
Child trafficking occurs internally in countries, across national borders and across continents. It is closely interlinked with the demand for cheap, malleable and docile labor. Usually child trafficking is more rampant in sectors and among employers where work conditions and employee treatment grossly violates the human rights of the children. It is a cruel practice that requires stiff punishment for perpetrators. The children’s places of employment and sleeping quarters are often unacceptably dangerous and squalid, and extremely hazardous to their health and development. Forms of indentured labor include child domestic labor, commercial sexual exploitation and prostitution, drug couriering, and child soldiering as well as exploitative and slavery-like practices in the informal industrial sector. UNICEF has programs such as End Trafficking, Every Child Counts and many others that need our support including lobbying governments, working with communities, and supporting training of professionals working with children rescued from child trafficking. The risk factors for the perpetration of this practice are many, but we can win this battle through a concerted effort, incrementally; one step at a time. The Bible says that children are a heritage from the Lord… a reward from Him (Psalm 127:3). Common sense tells us that squandering an inheritance is one sure way to court poverty.
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[i] Federal Bureau of Investigation (2014). Human Trafficking. Accessed from http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/civilrights/human_trafficking
[ii] International Labour Organization (2014). Trafficking in Children. Accessed from http://ilo.org/ipec/areas/Traffickingofchildren/lang–en/index.htm