Looking in: During the month of June 2015, media outlets across world were extremely busy. Many stories and images ranged from terrorist attacks in France, Kuwait and in Tunisia, where over 30 British nationals were killed, to Greece's financial crisis threat to the global financial system, and Puerto Rico’s struggles to pay a reported 72 billion in debt.
The Confederate Flag debate was reactivated after nine African Americans were gunned down at the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in the South; evangelicals struggled with the new era of same sex marriage after the US Supreme Court decision on marriage equality, and even how fast Jamaica track star, Usain Bolt, will run this year.
These evolving news stories are important, and related to our global socio-economic and justice issues but, for me, it was a four-minute video.
Her Story: I watched in horror an undercover operation where a 13-year-old schoolgirl was being sold by her uncle for cash in Kingston, Jamaica, to a Caucasian male who posed as a tourist. Although he was arrested, it opens the dam on this hidden world, where several of these beaches often ignores the erosions. Even more problematic was the re-victimization attitude by some as if this was a pre-written script. “She could have ran out of the situation or nothing happened to her.” There was more outrage on social media on the US Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage.
Sexual exploitation and human trafficking is not debatable. These events often have a negative psychological consequence long-term. An emotion complexity diminishes her assertiveness to gain back courage, confidence, resilience, and beauty.
Sadly, she is not alone, nor is it an isolated incident. Last year I wrote that Boko Haram is not just a Nigerian problem. Although in the Caribbean region, the Boko mentality has not marched into a classroom, wielded a weapon, and demanded 250 girls and left for the hills. A niece, an aunt, sister, and cousin are being taken one at a time while families are left hopeless with little and no support.
The characteristics study of commercial sexual exploitation identified that most of these victims are aged 12-18, and over 90 percent are female. The risk factors that can lead to exploitation are running away, poverty, homelessness, drugs, and/or alcohol use and, having friends in prostitution, or being gay, bisexual, transgender, and isolated.
Today I wonder if an Anosognosia condition is taking place along these shores. How often are young students between 14-17 lured into dark tinted vehicles parked few blocks from these schools by older men? Statutory rape seems like the norm as onlookers contemplate safety, pride, lack of support and resources. Many are left wondering if she accepted the invitation to negotiate between tuition bill, and a meal, knowing how uncomfortable, worrisome, and irritable the image is.
What if the local enforcement simply required most of these 100 percent black tinted car windows be removed?
The silence. It seems the region has become an exotic spot for the wrong reason, thriving off the secret world of sex tourism, both imported and exported when it should be taking seriously its responsibility to protect these young girls.
The perception that all visitors arrive only for relaxation and the good vibes these islands offer is a farfetched idea. This incident only highlights that sexual exploitation of young girls is a major problem and, for the right price, you have an abundance of sellers and buyers
Sexual trafficking of minors is not only a South East Asia problem. Customers no longer have to visit Nepal, Cambodia, Thailand, the Philippines, or even Western Europe such as Bulgaria, where sexual trafficking remains a major problem. These pimps are down the road, up the hill, across the street, and upstairs being run by someone you know, trust and respect. A family member, guardian, schoolteacher, and even a member of the law enforcement community who is sworn to protect.
An estimated 800,000 women and children are trafficked each year across international borders. Studies show that over 90 percent work for pimps. An epidemic requires mandatory reporting of victims. It ensures public awareness for families who are at high risk. Coordination and sharing of information among professionals who are advocates for these victims is key to solving these problems.
Cultural traits, taboos, societal norms, and expectations about sexual behaviour that forces silence have to be debunked. The media has to cover these victims such as a young child lifeless who has been murdered. We cannot continue to be detached because of our location. Sexual exploitation and trafficking of minors along these shores must be met with swift penalties to send a statement.
Wherever you have sexual trafficking, child labour is also a major issue.
Economics and Laws: (Reuters) 2015, over 1,100 arrested in a nationwide sweep for allegedly praying on kids according to the US Justice Department. They each use the internet to lure youths and then traffic them in to commercial sex. Among the people arrested in Texas were former employees of the Boys and Girls club, and soldiers.
For some of us, sexual crime against young people is the worst crime against humanity. It is an organized crime business, where profits are high and risks are low. It is an estimated $16-billion a-year operation in Latin America, and rising according to the International Organization on Migration. (BBC News) 2012, about 37 arrested in Oxford in what they believed was part of organized crime selling young girls for sex.
If a country has legal prostitution, it is less likely to have more severe punishment. In poor and developing nations, disparities between the haves vs have-nots, and lack of political courage make it a difficult prosecute despite violations of both national and international laws.
Every affected person, regardless if one explicitly put herself in a vulnerable situation, needs to be protected. They are victims, and it is important as risk measures for general recidivism as one would target an offender with higher risk probability of re-offending. For the safety of that girl and many others at risk, tools are vital to prohibit visitors from an open door system that allows teenagers to visit their hotels rooms, and be traded as if they are a commodity on the stock exchange.
I also understand when morality debates livelihood, especially in service-orientated economies. Sometime it mutes suspected behaviour. Child sex tourism is a crime of opportunity. A victim's immigration status can create an unwillingness to come forward.
Need for Scan: The conceptual understanding of who visits these shores has to become important. Operating a global island does not mean that one should ignore local community issues. Targeting pimps has to become an urgency. When people in power remain silent, and a nation entertains this demand, it only allows more exploitation, as these perpetrators operate on the belief that it is okay, with little or no consequences
The Caribbean has several other problems and lack of resources provides a perfect gateway such as reported drug trafficking. Holding elected officials and law enforcement officers who are sworn to protect accountable is not debatable. Equally important, communities have to speak up, even in situations where one find shame from norms and an unwillingness come forward in fear of personal ramifications.
What if these islands who were once under colonial rule view this as “slavery in disguise”, perhaps the muted attitude will change.
We cannot blame it on globalization alone as studies have shown that people are free move around the world.
Take a stand: In the next few weeks, many from the region will be on the world stage at the IAAF World Championship games. It is time a few sponsors highlight an exploited child. People must assemble not only for entrainment such as when Jamaica’s Kaci Fannell lost the 2015 Miss Universe pageant, and for carnival events. Soon many politicians will be wearing their political party colours to become the next leader; one wonders who will wear at least one exploited victim on their clothing and how many will remain mute on this missing outrage.
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