1 million people trafficked into life of forced labor, sex

By Meghan Hurley
February 2, 2006


For about $20, a family in India can buy a domestic child slave. These children are victims of human trafficking, an issue that has been growing in the world today. A renowned opponent of human trafficking spent over an hour educating almost 200 hundred Cabrini students, faculty and staff about this issue and what they can do to help.

“We won’t give in. We won’t give up. We won’t go tired,” Sister Jean Devos, ICM said about her more than 20 years of work in fighting the trafficking and abuse of children who are being sold in domestic slavery.

Devos spoke on her work with child labor in India on Monday, Jan. 30 in the Widener Lecture Hall in response to the growing interest in the issue of human trafficking.

Sister Devos, the national coordinator and founder of the National Domestic Workers’ Welfare Trust and the National Domestic Workers’ Movement, has worked in India for the rights of child domestic workers that are trafficked into the country and forced into servitude. These children are sold to families, mostly as domestic workers, and they face sexual, physical and emotional abuse.

Bridget Flynn, a freshman elementary and special education major, said that she knew very little about human trafficking and child slavery before hearing Sister Devos speak. “It was shocking that nobody knew about this issue,” Flynn said.

“It is estimated that more than 1 million people are trafficked annually around the world,” according to a website created by the Academy for Educational Development and funded by the United States State Department, humantrafficking.org.

The trafficking industry brings in over $9 billion annually. The definition of human trafficking, as stated on humantrafficking.org, is the “transportation of persons for forced labor, sexual exploitation or other illicit activities.”

Of the 1 million people trafficked, 80 percent of them are women and children. Between 14,500 and 17,500 women and children are trafficked into the U.S. every year, according to the U.S. Department of State.

According to Sister Devos, the effect that trafficking and forced labor has on these children is unimaginably profound. These children are alone, isolated and exploited. In a personal experience that she shared with the audience, Sister Devos described one child that she found as having strangulation marks, cuts from being hit with a broken bottle and human bites all over her body, as well as evidence of sexual abuse.

George Post, a sophomore English and communication major, said, “The presentation opened up my eyes. I knew human trafficking existed and it is definitely something that needs to be stopped.”

People are lured by traffickers with the promise of a better life. Traffickers will pay for transportation to another country, under the pretense of getting a better job or a better home. Advertisements for model agencies, travel agencies, employment companies, au pair babysitting services and matchmaking services are used to attract these people, especially women. Families will also sell their own children for money and young women are lured away with the promise of marriage and a stable environment.

The United States government has recognized human trafficking as a major global issue. On Jan. 10, President Bush signed The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act that renews The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Act of 2000 and strengthens efforts to fight human trafficking. According to the U.S. Department of State, this new bill authorizes “$361 million over the next two years to combat human trafficking and protect victims.” The money goes towards programs that battle prostitution and towards national, state and local law enforcement for investigating and prosecuting trafficking in the U.S.

The Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, an order founded by St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, are also very concerned with this issue and have taken a corporate stance on it.

Sister Devos’ goal is to bring awareness to this issue and to put a stop to trafficking children for domestic work. She said, “The force of human exploitation is stronger than us and that is why we must work together. When we work together against human trafficking, we can make a difference.”

Posted to the web by Bill Cassidy

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Meghan Hurley

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