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'The Selling of Innocents'

A still "The Selling of Innocents" (1996) Film by Ruchira Gupta

A still "The Selling of Innocents" (1996) Film by Ruchira Gupta

In Asia young women and children are especially vulnerable to traffickers. Unemployment, stagnant or disintegrating economic and social structures, as well as their perceived inferior status has driven many to seek better opportunities in other nations or abroad. They are easy prey to trafficking hucksters who promise high and easy wages under the best working conditions in lively, exciting metropolitan cities. Traffickers typically lure women abroad with the false promises of jobs as models, domestics, dancers, waitresses, nannies, models, and factory workers. They not only recruit foreign women and men through fraudulent advertising but also through employment, travel, model, or matchmaking agencies. Many women and men fall victim to seemingly reputable but unlicensed or unregulated employment agencies that are just as fraudulent.

Young women from Thailand have been brought to the United States and forced into virtual sex slavery. Ethnic Korean-Chinese women have been held as indentured servants in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Because it is an underground industry, it is difficult to judge with precision the magnitude of global trafficking in human beings. World wide the U.S. government estimates that approximately 700,000 women and children are trafficked across international borders each year - and this does not include trafficking within national boundaries. Trafficking in persons, particularly women and children, is significant on every continent.

We estimate that approximately 225,000 women and children are trafficked across international borders in Southeast Asia annually. In South Asia we estimate that approximately 150,000 women and children are trafficked across borders each year. These figures do not include trafficking within countries.

In numerous countries in Asia the unequal status of women and girls and a culture that regards women as property, as commodities, as servants, and sexual objects has worked to the advantage of traffickers. These stereotypes coupled with low literacy rates for girls and few opportunities to attend school or learn a trade, especially in poor rural areas in developing Asian countries make girls and women more vulnerable to false promises of great job offers. These attitudes have abetted the promotion of sex tourism in Bangkok, for example. The increased incidence of HIV has led to the age of those trafficked into forced prostitution to decrease. Now many trafficking victims found in brothels in Asia are in their early teens. But Thailand is by no means alone. In India Sumithra was a victim of debt-bondage trafficking. Her parents owed a debt to a moneylender they were unable to repay. When she was 8 years old she was taken as collateral and forced to work off the debt. She labored five days a week from 6 am to 7 pm rolling 1,500 cigarettes per day. She earned 75 cents a day and was allowed one 30-minute break per day. If she failed to meet her quota, she was beaten.

Women and girls are by no means the only victims. In Pakistan Abdul Rahman was 12 years old when he was kidnapped from his village and taken to the United Arab Emirates and was forced to work as a camel jockey. Camel jockeys are tied to the camel. Their screams of terror make the camel run faster during the race. His owners fed him once a day so that he would remain at a slight 60 pounds. In the competition many children tumble off and are easily trampled, some fatally. One of the more fortunate child jockeys, Abdul ran away and was eventually sent home.