Originally posted on August 25, 2011.div>
Child Labor in the United States does not readily come to mind when one brings up human rights or social injustice issues. After the Fair Labor Standards Acts was passed in 1938, largely due to groups like The National Child Labor Committee, institutionally endorsed use of children for labor in the US was virtually wiped out. Globally, child labor is still an enormous issue. 8.4 million children are involved in work that the ILO Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention defines as unacceptable for children. This includes the trafficking of children for debt bondage, forced labor, armed conflict, and the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC). In the United States, roughly 199,000 incidents of CSEC take place each year according to a study released by Estes & Weiner in 2001. (CLEP)
Children have historically been used as laborers for a few reasons, including their increased accessibility into smaller spaces (like broken down machines) and the ease of which it is to abuse them without risking organized resistance. However, the number one reason for using children is that employers have routinely considered them to be cheaper labor than adults. Because of their age, they have been considered to be cost-effective.
This view is still prevalent among perpetrators of CSEC today, only on a more disturbing level.
Unlike with drugs or illegal arms, both finite products, traffickers are able to acquire their human “products” at a low cost and then sell them repeatedly, producing a high profit.
“Gang members are not just selling drugs any longer. They’re selling children and young women for sex right here in our own backyard,” Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said at a news conference on Wednesday, August 24 2011. (Chicago Sun- Times) [ Alvarez was responding to a recent sex trafficking ring bust. ]
Because victims can be sold again and again, sex trafficking brings in a profit for pimps until they decide their victim is too used up to earn money for them and abandon them to fend for themselves. After victims have been thrust into a world of forced prostitution that often spirals into substance abuse and anti-social behavior as coping mechanisms, they often feel there is no turning back– especially if they’ve been involved in the industry for several years or months.
Children are not cheap. Their bodies are not products to be bought and sold.
Unlike sex traffickers, Society places a very high value on children; indeed, its full hope is cast upon children to carry on its legacy and build the future . We have a duty to protect children from rape for profit, and we have the power to do so – but it’s no easy fight. Efforts to end institutionalized exploitation of kids in the U.S lasted nearly a century, according to a timeline provided by the Child Labor Public Education Project. Ending the illicit, underground exploitation of children may seem more difficult because traffickers don’t have to answer to federal standards. However, as awareness of CSEC grows and people begin to take action to stop CSEC, traffickers and johns are experiencing a rude awakening about the true cost of commercially sexually exploiting children in Atlanta:
Amador Cortes-Meza was recently sentenced to forty years in prison, plus ordered to pay restitution to several of his victims totalling nearly $300,000.
Already, there has been an overwhelming response in Georgia that has pushed for new legislation and spread awareness among community leaders and law enforcement. The more people become aware, the more they will talk. The more they talk – the more people will start to listen. Confronting the hidden issue of CSEC begins with awareness.
1. Chicago Sun Times, Chicago Gang Members Arrested in Major Human Sex Trafficking Case. 8/24/2011