Living Room Dialogue with Carol Smolenski
Last November, Sharon Tiongco, a visitor from the Philippines, talked to us about human trafficking of young women in her country for sex and domestic labor. At the closing of her talk, she urged us not to think of this problem as something that is happening "over there," but to find out what is going on in New York and possibly take some action.
Following up on that, the Network invited Carol Smolenski of ECPAT-USA to talk to us about the trafficking of children for commercial sexual exploitation. At the end of these notes, you will find her suggestions for taking action.
ECPAT, which stands for End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism, was created in 1991 by people horrified at the way children were being exploited sexually in places like Bangkok. ECPAT-USA was formed in 1996 and has expanded its mission to ending sexual exploitation of children in the U.S.
Some things we learned from Carol: According to a CIA report issued in 2000, New York is a main port of entry and a transit area for traffickers either depositing victims in the metropolitan area or circulating them to other cities across the country. Sometimes the victims enter legally, sometimes only after being drugged, kidnapped, or physically restrained in some way. Sometimes they don't know they are being trafficked until they get here, having been told they would be given employment here.
Some 600-800,000 people every year are trafficked across the globe, 80% women and 50% under 18, 14,000-18,000 ending up in the U.S. Often they are afraid to seek help. Traffickers tell them the U.S. authorities are in on the deal and will be no help or they threaten to harm victims' families at home.
The global sex market has been facilitated by globalization, which outside of China and India has increased poverty world-wide. Around 40% of people in the world are living in poverty and ripe for this sort of exploitation.
The growth of the internet has been also a factor in the exploding sex industry. Child pornography available on-line increasingly uses younger and younger children, many under six, and even three-year-olds. People are being sold on eBay (escort section). Child sex tours used to be freely promoted but now are underground because of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act passed in the U.S. in 2000.
In 1996, 120 countries came to a World Congress against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children which was co-sponsored by ECPAT, UNICEF and the United Nations World Tourism Organization. Although the airlines and hotels are not directly involved in the sex industry, their infrastructure is employed by travelers in pursuit of sex with children. A Code of Conduct was developed which has now been signed by 300 companies. For more information on this code, go to www.ecpatusa.org or www.thecode.org.
Some suggestions for action:
Some of the thoughts that came up in the discussion after Carol's presentation:
Here is a sample letter that can be sent to a list of airline and hotel executives, along with the names of companies that have signed the Code of Conduct.
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