Sometimes we take life so much for granted. I’ve thought about it many times before, but it hit me tonight as I read an op-ed column in Wednesday’s New York Times by Nicolas Kristof. I’ve been reading Kristof’s stuff for a long time as he travels around the world contributing important pieces of work to the journalism archive.
Wednesday’s column talked about a night time rescue mission at a brothel in India in which he was invited to participate as a witness. The girl child that started it all was nicknamed Chutki … which means little girl because she was only about fifteen-years old. They were able to save the little girl and four others – one as young as five and another only ten-years old. It is modern day slavery of the worst possible kind.
According to Kristof, “India probably has more modern slaves than any country in the world. It has millions of women and girls in its brothels, often held captive for their first few years until they grow resigned to their fate. China surely has more prostitutes, but they are typically working voluntarily. India’s brothels are also unusually violent, with ferocious beatings common and pimps sometimes even killing girls who are uncooperative.”
The sex trade involving young children is so common in some of these countries that officials simply look the other way unless there is some mileage to be gained in terms of publicity by shutting down these operations. And there are many, many of them.
Kristof writes that “UNICEF has estimated that worldwide 1.8 million children enter the sex trade each year. Too many are in the United States, which should prosecute pimps much more aggressively, but the worst abuses take place in countries like Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Cambodia.”
Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that it happens only in India and those other countries. In Canadian cities like Toronto and Vancouver, there are kids for sale on the streets. Any vice squad cop can tell you a hundred stories with hundreds more to be told. Sometimes, the kids get out and turn up at places like Covenant House, Canada's largest shelter for homeless youth.
We shouldn’t pride ourselves on being any better than the people in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal or Cambodia. As we tuck into bed tonight for a good sleep in a warm bedroom, whether in Newfoundland or New Hampshire, we should spare a thought for those children – some may not live until the morning.
You can read Kristof’s article "Raiding a Brothel in India" by clicking here.