“Modern slavery – be it bonded labor, involuntary servitude or sexual slavery – is a crime
and cannot be tolerated in any culture, community or country.
It is an affront to our values and our commitment to human rights.”
–Hillary Clinton, June 14, 2010
The 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report has been released, and I’ll cut to the chase. The countries in Tier 3, the lowest tier, “whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so” are:
Papua New Guinea
It’s a long report; there is an index of links to specific sections, including the ranking by country, as well as a country by country narrative. For example, here is the page for an extended discussion of the trafficking situation in Australia. You just gotta love Melbourne, where apparently the sex trade is legal:
In October 2009, a local council in Melbourne introduced an “Anti Slavery and Sexual Servitude Local Law” requiring brothels to display signs in English, Thai, Korean, Chinese and Russian providing information on the crime of slavery and sexual servitude, and on how to seek help for those involved in sex slavery.
I’m not quite sure how to think about this one. There are so many layers to it, sort of like reading the health warning message on a pack of cigarettes.
But this one creeps me out:
In late March 2010, a Tasmanian court sentenced one trafficker to ten years’ imprisonment for prostituting a 12-year-old girl to more than 100 clients in 2009.
One hundred men paid to have sex with a child??!? In theory I guess I knew there were people in the world with such a warped sense of entitlement, but one hundred of them? On one small island? What would it be like to actually talk to someone like that, to sit next to them on a bus?
Such things happen on the internet. On a prostitution discussion on one mostly female blog, where “personal is political”, one woman told of how horrible it had been to work as a lingerie model to pay for her education, while others said they would not date a man who was willing to pay a prostitute for sex. A similar discussion on a mostly male blog had a homosexual male bragging about being victimized in prison, prostituting himself with a royal he didn’t particularly like, and then having sex with underage boys. Like Jews who become Nazis, he had internalized his own victimization and become a predator himself. The saddest thing about him was that any attempt to paint the situation as inappropriate was met with hostile accusations of “ruining a nice thread” and vague waving away of the subject with references to the tradition of beardless boys in Arab homoeroticism–no one was offended either by the exploitation of children or the strutting braggadocio. So this report airs out the stench in the internet for me and makes me doubly glad to find that I am not just an out-of-step anachronism for having worked in social services and approached these issues as a protector of the powerless; the sense of repugnance that for me is a no-brainer is also the norm in international law.
The report also has a Jordan element. One of the heroes honored by the report is Jordan’s Linda Al-Kalash, of Tamkeen for Legal Aid and Human Rights. I first became aware of Jordan’s immigrant population’s problems when someone gave me a lost Bible in another language and asked me to get it to someone who needed it. The language turned out to be Sri Lankan, and I passed it on to a pentecostal missionary (don’t ask) who was attending a Sri Lankan church and told me how desperate these women were and how much strength and comfort they got from attending religious services on their one day off. Their wages were enough to support their children, husbands, and parents–whole extended families–back in Sri Lanka. Guest workers who got jobs with foreign nationals were usually treated compassionately, but those who worked for Arabs would almost certainly be sexually assaulted and/or beaten. If they reported sexual assaults, they would be jailed, charged a fee for overstaying their visas while they were in jail, and eventually deported; there were typically 3 or 4 Sri Lankan guest workers per day showing up at their embassy asking to be repatriated.
For another truly bizarre story, but one with a happy ending, google mechanical camel jockeys and the story of the children who were sold for camel-racing, then starved to keep their weight down.
[Image: U.S. State Department]