Note: I screwed up. This post is intended for January's "Just Post" contributions, not December's. Oops!
This is a touchy subject and I've been giving some thought to how it is best approached. On two levels:
This is my contribution to the general energy pool of "Just Posts for a Just World" which began last month. I am doing it because it is a Good Idea. I want to do everything possible to support it in its current form. Please see One Plus Two post of 01/06/07 for details. The revisions are very important and they are what allow me to participate now.
More importantly, it is offered in a spirit of mindfulness, the process that encourages us keep these things in mind as we go along about our daily lives, as we develope and grow in knowledge and consciousness of the world around us. In other words, it is an important part of increased maturity.
As a kid growing up in Los Angeles, the people who surrounded us ~ neighbors and the parents of schoolmates ~ frequently had household help. The household help came from many corners of the world, most often from the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Colombia and an assortment of third-world Latin-American countries. The gardeners and the maids mostly spoke Spanish.
We didn't question how they got here. They were in the background. They were called "Maria" or "Carmen" and usually spoke very little English.
So, now I will tell how they frequently "get here".
Coyotes ~ human traffickers ~ promise these young women a "better life". Of course the offer comes with a high price. They are told it's perfectly okay that they don't have the money upfront. They can pay it back out of their wages. The cost is usually in the thousands of dollars, prohibitive for average Americans, let alone uneducated, poverty-stricken citizens of countries that have a national economy no larger than the CIA's banquet budget.
The women come and are either put out as prostitutes or they are "sold" through shady agencies that provide household help and nanny services to bored, stressed Beverly Hills housewives. It's truly not that uncommon. Unable to pay the fees in full to the coyotes, these women are, for all intents and purposes, slaves. They do not have freedom of movement. The coyotes take their passports and all of their meager earnings so they are unable to leave. They are alienated and separated from family. These women are frequently subjected to far worse treatment than having to clean toilets. Anything is acceptable. Beatings, rape and torture are not uncommon. There are even documented cases of homicide.
That is just one example. There are, of course, many more.
I don't claim to have the solution to this with the exception of one very important thing. Mindfulness. Being aware of our environment. Noticing something that seems out of place. If you have a neighbor who has household help and that person seems to be isolated, no visible days off, no obvious freedom, take note. Call someone.
In the larger, global sense, there is an organization addressing these issues. It is "Free The Slaves". Their website provides documents and further information on the topic. Google "human trafficking" and read some of the articles. This is an important issue, one that needs a solution and most of all, our awareness.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007