Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Human Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery....

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.




Anonymous said...

I applaud you Chani for bringing these very serious issues to our attention. These matters upset me immensely as I know when such a tragedy occurs, hundreds of lives are affected even destroyed as a result.I think of the mothers and fathers, uncles and aunts who in a way are also taken hostage because of the constant anxiety with wich they must contend. For everyone of those girls , there is a mother whose frown lines are etched in a little deeper every day...

Anonymous said...

I cannot find the words - how it is possible for educated, well-to-do people to be complicit with this type of crime? Why are there so many morally deficient people?

The Atavist said...

Much human behaviour is disgusting and base. I wish there were an easy solution to all of this. In the meantime, raising awareness, as you are, may help a bit. Keep it up!

Anvilcloud said...

I'm with you. I know that there are many deplorable situations, and I guess the worst are offshore.

dmmgmfm said...

You always tackle the tough subjects Chani, and this is no exception. Thank you.

LittlePea said...

Horrible! I don't understand how people can do this.

Pam said...

A young woman my stepson dated for a brief period who, at that time, was working as a dancer, was lured out of this country with the promise of making a great deal of money dancing there. This was some time ago and I don't recall to which country she traveled, but his mother, realizing the danger she was in, managed to get her out and back to the US before she was permantly ruined and lost.

Up until that point I have to admit, I was fairly ignorant as to how easily these girls, from whatever country, are manipulated.
I think an awareness of the situation is important, the bad guys get the good girls more often than people think.

Anonymous said...

what a brave post. and on a subject that is incomprehensible to me. human cargo is well, unspeakable. and yet it happens.

Stephen Newton said...

I agree with it all Chani and would like to point out that the other culprit in the exploitation of illegal aliens is no other than the governments of the countries they must flee from. How intolerable must their lives have been to accept lives of servitude or worse rather than stay where they were.

Those governments are guilty of driving their own citizens to ther countries in search of something better. Can't we make the countries also responsible and urge them to make conditions better so their people won't have to sacrifice decency for the dream of a better life?

thailandchani said...

Caro, naturally these issues upset me, too. As a kid, I didn't know what to make of any of it. Needless to say, my own version of "90210" is very different than anything seen on TV. It can be a heartless, ruthless place. Your point is well-taken. When we harm one, we harm many ~ intentional or not.


De, this relates to my statement above re: 90210. There is a sense of entitlement. It's not so much a matter of not understanding it. They believe they are above it.

Complicit.. absolutely! And most of them do know better.


Atavist, the best disinfectant is always sunshine. :)I would be very interested in knowing the Libertarian perspective on this.


Anvil, it's all the same world. One hand always knows what the other is doing. Participation is complicity, in my opinion.


Laurie, thanks. I think it's the frustrated investigative reporter in me. I love to "smash the dominant paradigm. :)


Ms Pea, I wish I understood a lot more than I do. You'd think my age would be of some advantage but it has not served me well in this. It still seems that so many of us fell on the wrong planet.


Pam, thank goodness for his mother! Coyotes, like pimps, usually target the most vulnerable.


Jen, yes.. it is unspeakable.. at the very minimum, very hard to speak of.. but speak of it.. we must!

This is the kind of evil created by and supported by capitalism.


Stephen, who is "we", Kimosabi? :)

I know what you are saying and unfortunately it will take the whole civilized world to deal with this issue. Certainly the US, the money-laundering capital of the known universe, wouldn't be the one to challenge self-serving dictators and corrupt administrations that drive their countries to that state. It usually protects its own business interests. Although the Department of Homeland Security gives a lot of lip service to the problem, it hasn't done anything substantial to stop it. This is definitely a problem for the United Nations.


Peace all... Something lighter tomorrow, I promise. :)


Girlplustwo said...

yes, but you submitted three posts for Dec - so no need to remove that button. and the good news is we'll be holding onto your newest one for the January Just Posts.

(going to bed now, sorry)

QT said...

Chani -Add the Saudi's to your list. A former BF of mine had a family that worked for the US Embassy and they were stationed throughout the Middle East most of his life. Many Saudi and Kuwaiti families purchased Phillipine "maids" that were subjected to all kinds of abuse at the hands of household members.

Also, in my line of work we are required to take continuing ed on recognizing signs of money laundering once a quarter. Believe me, it is something the securities industry is taking very seriously!

The Atavist said...

Good question -- the Libertarian perspective on human trafficking -- hmmmm.

Some anti-liberty kneejerkers might suggest, wrongly, of course, that human slavery is simply commerce and that as such it falls under laissez-faire capitalism which is, naturally, a libertarian ideal. Nope, no cigar.

The Libertarian position is that each of us has a natural right to our lives, liberty and property. If you affect my life in any way, without my permission, you violate my rights. If you ship me to Quatar as a sex-slave, you deprive me of my liberty. If you live off the fruits of my labour, even as a sex-slave, you deprive me of my property.

Of course, if someone voluntarily sells (or rents, more properly) their body for one hour at a time at a rate acceptable both to him or her and the other party, that should be perfectly acceptable (legally) even if it might simultaneously be morally reprehensible to many.

Anyone who subjects anyone else to involuntary servitude is a human slug and should be punished to the full extent of the law.