The Dirty Business of Child Trafficking: Selling Kids as Slaves

The trafficking of children is in a word--disgusting! Last week, I talked about one of China's adoption rings and how it impacted adoption--kids taken from their parents and sold as orphans--but I didn't tell you the other side--kids taken from their parents and sold into slavery.

Merriam Webster defines slavery as "submission to a dominating influence; or, the state of a person who is chattel of another." Simply put, that means one person OWNS another, heart, body, and soul. Slavery, no matter how you look at it, is wrong! No one should ever have the right to own another person, to dominate him/her, to have control over whether he/she lives or dies. However, when we are talking about kids, the act is even more disgusting.

A report from the Labor Department released earlier this week stated that 168 million children, ranging in ages between 5 years and 17 years old, were used as child laborers last year. 168 Million!

There is no way to determine how many of those children are actually sold into labor. While it is true that in some countries, kids are sent to work by their parents to help feed and support the family, it is also true that a vast number of parents actually sell their children to traffickers. 

Why are children enslaved? Money. Children are bought to do jobs that no adult would do, and since they are owned, they don't have to be paid. It's a win, win situation for the trafficker and for the slave owner. According to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, child laborers are used to crawl "underground in mine shafts" or they serve as domestic workers.

Child slavery is not new in any sense of the word, and no country is without a history of child slavery. We all know what took place in the United States after Dutch traders brought the first shipload of African slaves to our shores in 1619. However, my experience with child slavery is a little different. My great grandmother and several of my aunties were Native Americans. They were coerced from their tribes and families to attend a school that would teach them the white man's ways. They were not allowed their religious beliefs, their customs, their language, or their native dress, and once they were "civilized" they were sent out to  slave in factories for little money, or to serve as domestic servants regardless of their age. This, to me, was just another form of child slavery.

What is being done to stop child slavery through trafficking? Not much. The U.S. did pass a trade law which prohibits trading with countries with the "worst child-labor practices", and agencies like UNICEF are trying to put pressure on all countries to stop it. However, the only way I see to stop child trafficking is to severely punish those who sell and buy children as slaves. 

Maybe those adults need to crawl down tiny holes in the earth to check for minerals, scoop out waste from latrines, scrub floors, work their fingers to the bone in over-heated textile factories, make rugs, or any of the other hundreds of jobs these kids are forced to do without pay, without adequate food, without adequate clothing, and without human kindness. 

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