Child trafficking


There are commodities required for special markets which cater for the baser desires and urgent needs of mostly male adults, but also women and children. In these markets, demand always outstrips supply. There are big profits to be made. Some of the buyers in some of those markets are people like you and me. Indirectly, our needs and desires, and the money we hand over to satisfy them ensures that the suppliers of these commodities will never cease operations. The suppliers have a special name: they are traffickers. For the purpose of this intention, the commodities they traffick are commonly referred to as children.

What is Human Trafficking?

According to the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (2000), child trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of children for the purpose of exploitation. It is a violation of their rights, their well-being and denies them the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Trafficked for War

While the above definition of trafficking does not specifically include the exploitation of others for war, can anyone defend themselves against recruiting or abducting a child as young as nine to use a firearm; or to permit images of boy soldiers on television, smiling and firing off full magazines, and claim that they are not exploiting them for the promotion of a specific cause? See for yourself thousands of pictures of child soldiers on the internet, and try to remain impassive. Arguably the world's most effective assault rifle, the AK-47, can be stripped and reassembled by a child of 10. Besides being able to use lethal weapons, children are easier to intimidate and they do as they are told. They are also less likely than adults to run away and they do not demand salaries.

Trafficked for sex trade

Wars have been waged against the rights of humans, especially women and children, since man was capable of an exploitative thought. Some extremist groups have increased mass abductions as a tactic of war. Such behavior is inevitably accompanied by other human rights abuses such as enslavement, forced religious conversion, forced marriage, sexual violence and torture. Countless women and girls remain captive in countries as far-flung as Congo, Nigeria, Iraq, Syria and Myanmar. How many of us remember the Boko Haram abduction of 276 schoolgirls in Nigeria, a year ago?

It is difficult enough to set aside armed conflicts when deliberating upon the trafficking of women and children for the sex trade. Countries left ruined and in terrible poverty from wars, natural disasters and economic depression, have little to offer to the widows and orphans, who may have survived but live in desperate circumstances. They are vulnerable and desperate, as recent reports of the Mediterranean and Calais refugees and asylum seekers have shown us. Unfortunately some are also open to easy exploitation with promises of fantastic new lives in Dublin or London, earning plenty of money to send back home to 'your loved ones'. What they have been lured to, what they have been 'sourced' for, are thriving sex industries, both underground and overground.

Unesco is attempting to separate trafficking myths from trafficking realities. While recent research has yielded information on the nature of child trafficking, little is known about its magnitude. The International Labor Organization’s 2002 estimation of 1.2 million children being trafficked each year remains the reference (Every Child Counts, New Global estimate on Child Labour). This figure in itself is frightening, but once Unesco has 'clarified the bases', it might in hindsight be regarded as a terrifying underestimate.

Trafficked for work

It is our nature, our duty and our responsibility, to cater for our own needs and our own children, even in an economic depression. Sometimes when we have a choice - health and peer pressures aside - we find cheap clothes, food and other goods which are necessary, or which we believe are necessary to us. But do we stop to think about their origins? When we pay say four euro for a top or a skirt, we know that the seller is making a profit, even on such a small amount. How is this?

Over 100 million children around the world work in hazardous conditions in agriculture, mining, domestic labor, and other sectors. On tobacco farms, children work long hours in extreme heat, exposed to nicotine and toxic pesticides that can make them sick. In Africa, Asia, and Latin America, child laborers in artisanal and small-scale gold mines work underground in pits that easily collapse and use toxic mercury to process the gold, risking brain damage and other serious health conditions.

In 2008, Primark was forced to cancel contracts with some Indian suppliers using child labour, after a BBC Panorama investigation. In May 1998, the then-CEO Phil Knight admitted that: “The Nike product has become synonymous with slave wages, forced overtime, and arbitrary abuse.” Since then, the company has had to work very hard to restore its credibility, with greater transparency and quality controls.

Trafficking of Children for Organs

On average in the U.S.A., 18 people die every day from the lack of available organs for transplant. The world illegal trade in kidneys has risen to such a level that an estimated 10,000 black market operations involving purchased human organs now take place annually, or more than one an hour, World Health Organisation experts have revealed.

Evidence collected by a worldwide network of doctors shows that traffickers are cashing in on rising international demand for replacement kidneys driven by the increase in diabetes and other diseases.

Patients, many of whom will go to China, India or Pakistan for surgery, can pay up to $200,000 (nearly £128,000) for a kidney to gangs who harvest organs from vulnerable, desperate people, sometimes for as little as $5,000.

A British government report on human trafficking in 2013, stated that an unnamed girl was brought to the UK from Somalia with the intention of removing her organs and selling them on to those desperate for a transplant. The report suggests that the child was only one of a group of children trafficked for the same reason.

The Traffickers/the suppliers

Organized crime is largely responsible for the spread of international human trafficking. Sex trafficking—along with its correlative elements, kidnapping, rape, prostitution and physical abuse—is illegal in nearly every country in the world. However, sex trafficking can be extremely lucrative and widespread corruption and greed at local level make it possible for it to quickly and easily proliferate.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the greatest numbers of traffickers are from Asia, followed by Central and Southeastern Europe, and Western Europe. Crime groups involved in the sex trafficking of women and girls are also often involved in the transnational trafficking of drugs and firearms, and frequently use violence as a means of carrying out their activities.

The buyers/the market/

This is where ordinary people have to do some soul-searching. Yes, there are some scary nations and individuals with perverted needs and ideas who are responsible for some of what occurs. However, many of the biggest trafficking consumers are developed nations, and men who purchase trafficked women are both rich and poor, Eastern and Western. Many are married and have children, and in some cases, as was reported in one New York Times article, men have sex with trafficked girls in lieu of abusing their own children.

There are laws to deal with the baser, criminal acts of humans. But when you can readily participate in sex tourism for 'licensed' sex activites in places like Soho, the 'red light district' in Amsterdam and the 'rent boys' in Phuket, Thailand - Trivago for pedophiles - you might have a growing sense of unease about the extablishment's duty and ability to protect the young and innocent from the more predatorial instincts of society.

We abhor the notion of childless rich people paying for children. We stand aghast at the thought of defenceless kids used until dead in dens of iniquity. How can anyone call himself human, who pays for the right to abuse a young child, especially when he might be a parent himself? But how many of us have bought cheap goods and food, without considering that these simple, innocent acts are contributing to the continuance and perpetuation of some of these activities?

Pope Francis on Trafficking

The Pope has been a long-time active advocate for the rights of women and children, ensnared by the sex traders, especially prior to his election as Pontiff, in his native Argentina. He has referred to the 'disgrace' of human trafficking, stating in no uncertain terms that "exploiters and clients at every level must make a serious examination before themselves and before God. He is fearless in accusing the different mafias who exploit men, women and children, forcing them to work as slaves. Referring to the greed of those involved in human trafficking, he has said, "In a world that talks so much about rights, the only thing that seems to have them is money."

What can be done?

The very existence of the Sodom and Gomorrah story tells us that men have been capable of unspeakable acts against each other for a long time. Yes, burning down entire cities and their populations is abhorrent to us civilised people, even to rid us of evil. Isn't it? But so is buggering babies and children for money. Which offends us more?

How can world leaders give their backing to UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which rightfully calls for the greater protection of women and girls from sexual violence and their greater participation in rebuilding war-torn communities, if they also continue to wage wars? If even one President was prepared to expose the dichotomy, the killing and exploitation might, just might cease in even some parts of the world.

Consider your favourite stores or products for just a few moments. Research them on the internet by adding child labour to the name. If you are happy to continue supporting them in the light of the results, please do so. But don't support deliberate exploitation.

Consider carrying an organ donor card, to ensure a greater legal supply of organs for those who desperately need them.

Through strict application of laws that already exist and with a large increase in necessary counselling, some reduction in sex trafficking can be achieved. But, above all though, we have to pray that we as a society will stop to think with our heads, our hearts and our consciences for a change; and banish our baser cravings forever.

This month of August, we pray for the conversion of those who subject children to trafficking. May God touch their hearts and help them to change their ways.

We pray also for all God's little children who suffer so much at the hands of evil.



United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

 In May 2014, in comments he made to the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers

 Stated in the first Easter Mass after his election