Sunday, 22 February 2009

Forgotten Children

It is now over 200 years since the Slave Trade Act was passed and at the time the Act was hailed as a great victory for humanity over cruelty and inhumanity.

However, an equally significant initiative is required to ensure humane treatment for the millions of children currently held as slaves, forced to work long hours for little, or no pay, hope or comfort and left vulnerable to extreme hardship, violence and sexual exploitation.

It is estimated that, world-wide, 218 million children, between the ages of 5 and 16, are employed, in one way or another, in child labour. Of that total, around 126 million are involved in hazardous work.

Around 9 million children are believed to work under conditions akin to slave labour.

They are being robbed of their childhood by being the victimes of trafficking where children are either sold or lent by their parents to, or are abducted by, criminal elements.

Around 1.2 million children are trafficked each year. This number is increasing year by year. It is estimated that the criminals involved in this "low-risk, high profit" activity pocket profits of around £30 billion per annum...

Children and babies are trafficked for many reasons. They are sold to be used for domestic work, hazardous child labour, begging and other illegal activities such as stealing or for adoption or early forced marriage.

Trafficked children are also sold into sexual exploitation to adults who repeatedly rape and abuse them or rent them out to paedophiles for further abuse. In sex tourism, abusers deliberately pick holiday destinations where they know they can pay to have easy access to children for sexual intercourse.

If the children don't co-operate they are brutally assaulted and are at constant risk of contacting sexually transmitted infections, including HIV and AIDs.
In bonded child labour a child has to work off a debt incurred by parents or extended families and they are unable to stop working until the debt is cleared. Throughout the world, people work to pay off their debts but in some countries paying off debt is a life-time committment not far removed from slavery.

World wide, it is illegal to recruit and use children as combatants or in any other roles in military conflict but it is estimated that almost half a million children under the age of 15 are associated with fighting forces. They are used to kill, lay mines, act as spies or simply as "cannon fodder".

Agencies who wish to address the issues of abused and exploited children realise that the problem is so vast and deep-seated and the criminal rewards engendered by the exploitation so enormous that it would take a massive co-ordinated effort to even begin to tackle the problem.

We hear, constantly, these days about global initiatives to tackle the present economic situation but we hear very little about attempts to tackle this problem which is an clear and present affront to human dignity and rights.

It appear to be a problem that is best ignored and recognition of the efforts of the agencies involved will, occasionally, briefly surface only to quickly be submerged as soon as a footballer's wife buys a new dress - a source of constant fascination to the news media.

When sickening descriptions of children being killed by those who are supposed to care for them are high-lighted it, naturally, causes great outrage and those in authority give instant assurances that steps will be taken to ensure that, in future, vulnerable children will be adequately protected.

Whilst cruelty to children, is a world-wide problem, what are those in authority in Britain doing about the estimated 5,000 children, 75% of them girls, who are currently being used for prostitution in this country? Each and every one of them is at risk of being the next child tragedy.


  1. Brownlie I don't know the solution to this problem. the UK has given trillions over the years to countries who have severe poverty, only for the money to go into the pockets of the ruling classes. For some reason nobody brings that to a halt.

    If I was PM here I'd stop ALL funding anywhere until I was fully informed of its destiny. Just coughing up money then throwing about a press release is such a disaster for all concerned.

    Until this happens I shall continue to make my charitable payments in Scotland: to the Ninewells Cancer Trust and the Salvation Army.

  2. brownlie an other great article and so sorry i missed it. Must learn to comment on other blogs rather than the ones that often appear at the top of my list. Lesson learnt.
    It is a terrible children are exploited at such a young age. Africa seems to have the biggest problems from kids working in Goldmines to fighting in wars.

    Much of the children's plight is by us in the west. If we changed our attitudes and stopped being such a materialistic society then some of those kids might not be working as slaves.

    China is a big culprit along with India but the children do get a pay and conditions are improving along with the economy.

    That's the problem with much of this, poor country will exploit children. My girlfriend was out in Ghana for 2 months a few years back working with kids and it was amazing to know all the kids wanted was an education, nothing else but education, okay and love.

    To sort this problem out will take decades. The west needs to invest in poor countries and the corrupt govs have to go, easy said than done.

    Yip the slave trade is still with us and even some parents will trade off children for as little as £20. It is sick but why do they do it ? simple, its back to poverty. Poverty and greed by the privilege few at the top will insure child slavery continues.

    It can be sorted but only with huge efforts on a globle scale.

    Good artice brownlie.sorry for my typos btw, i type at a rats pace, swear..

  3. subrosa,

    Sadly, there does not appear to be a solution, and certainly not in the short-term. There is too much poverty, too many victims, too few who care, too much corruption and too money to be made by criminal elements.

    Of course, you're right about money falling into the wrong hands but it's up to the government to ensure that it's used for the intended purpose.

    Hopefully, as people get more educated - which they are desperate to do - they will be able to stand up for themselves more as I think the solutions can only come from within a country rather than be forced on them from outside - which as we know does not work.

  4. AMW

    Yes, it's always the same when poverty means that people take desperate measures and people are forced to peddle their children like animals into dreadful situations. It always used to disgust me in bars in Cambodia and Thailand to see adults fondling children and girls young enough to be their daughters or even grand-daughters and it always occurred to me what their friends and neighbours would think if they could see them.

    Yes, it is a global problem but it can only really be solved from within once people develop the will to do so.

    We have no reason to be complacent in our country as in London, in particular round Soho and King's Cross, you can see children of both sexes selling themselves openly whilst the police seem to ignore them and have a sweep of the streets every now and again but they are back the next night.

  5. No Ifs No Buts- Give up the Bonus, RBS

  6. Saudis Import Slaves to America

    Homaidan Ali Al-Turki, 36, and his wife, Sarah Khonaizan, 35, appear to be a model immigrant couple. They arrived in America in 2000 and now live with their four children in an upscale Denver suburb. Mr. Al-Turki is a graduate student in linguistics at the University of Colorado, specializing in Arabic intonation and focus prosody. He donates money to the Linguistic Society of America and is chief executive of Al-Basheer Publications and Translations, a bookstore specializing in titles about Islam.

    Last week, however, the FBI accused the couple of enslaving an Indonesian woman who is in her early 20s. For four years, reads the indictment,

  7. Nikos,

    Tip of the iceberg, mate, tip of the iceberg.