BY MATTHEW SHUTLER
Published January 26, 2010
The girls wear red dresses while watching cartoons on flickering televisions. They stare with dead eyes, their hope broken, and wait. Their names are replaced with numbers – wiping away the last of their identity and dignity.
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Behind windows, gazing at these girls with disturbing scrutiny, men stand shoulder to shoulder and choose which they will buy. By selecting from the numbers available, they condemn the unnamed girls to a life of abuse and rape.
This is one of many examples of child exploitation. This is the story told by Love146, a charity devoted to the prevention and abolition of human trafficking.
Human trafficking, rape and oppression are realities for millions of children. An estimated 1.2 million children are sold into this shell of a life each year. And an estimated market of $32 billion exists because of these sales. Every minute, approximately 2 children are bought. That means that each time you listen to your favorite song, about 7 children’s lives are forfeited. And during one of your lectures, about 180 children are procured as sex commodities or soldiers, for labor or another callous reason.
These children, stolen with lies, coercion or force, will probably never see their families again. Impoverished families are tricked with false pretenses of employment into sacrificing their children to this life. Ignorance blinds them to the fate that inevitably lies ahead for those closest to them. Homes and communities are destroyed by someone’s sick acquisition of another human being.
Boys and girls, some as young as five years old, are sold to brothels. South Asia holds the most prominent and numerous of these internments. Their customers come most commonly from Japan and the United States. Ancient cities, famed for their exotic beauty and exquisite temples, are stained with blood, as this crime against humanity exists behind closed doors. These are places you could never imagine, where predators travel thousands of miles to reach, places where their prey is plentiful and on display.
Intertwining criminal networks and ill-informed, unequipped law enforcement combined with various other reasons, trafficking is exceedingly difficult to combat and abolish. In fact, child trafficking is increasing. Some 27 million are currently enslaved around the world, and 10 million are enslaved in the Trans-Atlantic division of the slave trade alone.
But people exist who work tirelessly to stop these atrocities from occurring. The aforementioned charity, Love146, is one of these organizations. Created solely to work for greater prevention and aftercare, this charity was founded in 2002 after months of deep investigation into one of the darkest facets of our world. Love146 trains aftercare workers, creates safe homes for those affected, develops educational programs in high-risk areas and, most importantly, offers a voice to the victims of this modern-day slavery. They offer hope to people who may otherwise remain unaware. Completely nonprofit, abolition is their ultimate and commanding goal.
Love146 was named after a girl viewed in a brothel by members from the charity who were gathering evidence by impersonating customers. Co-founder Rob Morris saw amid the sea of broken souls, to his amazement, one girl with fight in her eyes. She stared, not at the television screens, but through the glass at the men. Her name will never be known, but her number — her brand — will live forever. “146” — which was her cell number — now creates hope and new life.
Living in Ann Arbor, college students are sheltered more than we know. While we hear about the failing economy (many of us actually feel it firsthand at home) and other hardships, here in our little bubble, the world seems to be passing by carelessly. But the world is in turmoil and it’s our responsibility as the future workforce and leaders of tomorrow to fight for what we believe is right.
If you want to fight atrocities like child trafficking, there are numerous charities, like Love146, that you can be a part of. To be a part of the fight, go to love146.org. Here you can donate to the charity and find ways to spread the message of child trafficking. You can learn to host an event, book a speaker, or even start a task force on campus or in your town. Any aid can help save another child from this barbaric life.
Whether this information comes as a shock to your small slice of college perfection or it’s simply one of those things that “just exists" on the other side of the world, it’s our duty to inform ourselves of the cruelties permeating on our watch. Will you return to feigning ignorance, or will you stand and fight?
These children are the same age as your younger sisters and daughters. What would you do if a member of your family lived like this?