SEATTLE — One in three victims of human trafficking is a defenseless child. Child trafficking preys upon the powerlessness of children, forcing them to face unspeakable risks such as death threats or other forms of coercion. The many causes of child trafficking primarily focus on exploiting children for labor, sex or some other profit motive.
One of the main causes of child trafficking is the vulnerability of children. Children can be manipulated at the will of the trafficker in ways that more aware, self-protective adults cannot. Additionally, if a child’s parents are out of the picture, the child possesses even less agency; children in foster care, for instance, may face heightened risks of trafficking.
Some anti-trafficking organizations protect potential victims by recognizing that orphans are especially at risk for abuse. Stella’s Voice, for instance, provides housing and education for Moldovan orphans to keep them from sexual exploitation. Stella’s Home, the female-oriented branch of the organization, works primarily with girls who have lost their parents but are too old for state-run orphanages or other housing programs, as these girls are common targets for sex trafficking.
Many children become trafficked when desperately pursuing better lives, making the world’s poor especially susceptible to trafficking. A trafficker may promise that he will help a child receive an education in exchange for servitude. To someone with few resources, this promise can seem too important to pass up, though it may come at a devastating cost.
Relatives may also sacrifice their children to traffickers in hopes that the prospects of the family will improve. Selling a daughter to a wealthy friend for forced labor is an example of how such fear may manifest. The apparent desperation of such individuals to obtain some form of stability for their families demonstrates how important it is to help discourage systems of child trafficking. Helping women and children achieve financial independence through microloans, for instance, remedies circumstances of financial desperation in ways that can affect the entire community.
Political instability is another one of the leading causes of child trafficking. In the face of such turmoil, rebel forces and government organizations exploit children for military purposes. Victims become child soldiers, taking on various roles in a military or militia such as fighters, cooks, prostitutes, etc. These children are especially vulnerable in times of war too; war often displaces children from their homes and leaves them parent-less.
Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, made internationally notorious by Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 campaign, is one such trafficker of child soldiers. Kony’s army has abducted thousands of children in Uganda and beyond. It aims to overthrow the Ugandan government and replace it with a government based on fundamentalist religious ideals. Invisible Children seeks to end Kony’s reign of terror, halting his recruitment of child soldiers and victimization of thousands of civilians. If the organization catches Kony, Invisible Children will terminate one of the world’s worst sources of child trafficking.
Whether for forced labor, militarization or prostitution, each manifestation of child trafficking is a violation of human rights. Organizations such as Stella’s House and Invisible Children work to reverse the harmful systems of exploitation and abuse by targeting some of the most common causes of child trafficking. There is still much to be done before parents and their children around the world can rest easy.
– Sabine Poux