Child Abuse—A History - The International Exploitation Of Children

labor trafficking labour person

Cleric Abuse

Allegations of child abuse have surfaced among several religious denominations. For example, a survey of Roman Catholic dioceses in the United States commissioned by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and released in 2004 revealed that 10,667 incidents of alleged sexual abuse occurred between 1950 and 2002 involving 4,392 priests and deacons ("The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States," http://www.usccb.org/nrb/johnjaystudy%20[accessed November 1, 2004]). During most of this period, church leaders who knew of the abuse worked to keep it secret, by paying millions of dollars to victims' families and moving the abusive priests from parish to parish. Allegations of sexual abuse by priests have also surfaced in Mexico, Ireland, Canada, Colombia, Venezuela, Italy, Spain, England, Australia, and Hong Kong.

Other religious denominations have also been involved in sexual abuse allegations. Some members of the Jehovah's Witnesses spoke out against their church's policy of handling reports of child sexual abuse. The church follows biblical standards to resolve problems. A group of church elders meet in secret to decide each sexual abuse allegation. The elders require two credible witnesses, including the accuser, to determine whether or not the allegations are true. William Bowen, a former elder and founder of silent-lambs, a group that monitors sexual abuse in the Jehovah's Witnesses, claimed that it is usually impossible for a child victim to have a witness to the incident. Without the witnesses to attest to the abuse, the alleged perpetrator is considered innocent and the charges are kept confidential (http://www.silentlambs.org [accessed November 13, 2004]). According to church officials, they do report suspected abuse if the state law requires it.

In June 2000 former Hare Krishna children sued the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), a sect of Hinduism that became popular in the United States during the 1960s. The parents left the children in boarding schools while they went out to recruit new members and to solicit donations. The plaintiffs alleged physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, including being deprived of food and sleep, being severely beaten, being locked up in roach-infested rooms, and being offered in marriage to older men who were patrons of ISKCON. ISKCON officials, while substantiating that the abuse had occurred, denied that hundreds of children were involved.

The lawsuit attempted to use a federal law, Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) chapter of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 (Public Law 91-452), which was originally intended to curb organized crime. The lawsuit sought $400 million in damages from ISKCON congregations and individuals. In September 2001 the U.S. District Court of Dallas, Texas, permanently dismissed the case.

Child Soldiers

In wars past and present throughout the world, government armed forces and opposition groups have forced children to serve as soldiers. According to the Human Rights Watch World Report 2004: Human Rights and Armed Conflict (New York, 2004), the number of child soldiers remained constant at about three hundred thousand in at

TABLE 1.1

Definition of "severe forms of trafficking in persons" from the Trafficking Victims' Protection Act
SOURCE: "Definition of 'Severe Forms of Trafficking in Persons'," in 2004 Trafficking in Persons Report, U.S. Department of State, June 2004, http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/34158.pdf%20(accessed October 27, 2004)
The Act defines "severe form of trafficking in persons" as
(a) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or (b) the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
Definition of Terms Used in the Term "Severe Forms of Trafficking in Persons":
"Sex trafficking" means the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.
"Commercial sex act" means any sex act on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person.
"Involuntary servitude" includes a condition of servitude induced by means of (A) any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause a person to believe that, if the person did not enter into or continue in such condition that person or another person would suffer serious harm or physical restraint; or (B) the abuse or threatened abuse of the legal process.
"Debt bondage" means the status or condition of a debtor arising from a pledge by the debtor of his or her personal services or of those of a person under his or her control as a security for debt, if the value of those services as reasonably assessed is not applied toward the liquidation of the debt or the length and nature of those services are not respectively limited and defined.
"Coercion" means (A) threats of serious harm to or physical restraint against any person; (B) any scheme, plan or pattern intended to cause a person to believe that failure to perform an act would result in serious harm to or physical restraint against any person; or (C) the abuse or threatened abuse of the legal process.

least twenty countries in which they were used both by government and nongovernmental forces. As wars ended in such places as Angola and Sierra Leone in 2003, children were recruited, many by abduction, by other countries, including Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Sudan, and Uganda.

The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, in Child Soldier Use 2003: A Briefing for the Fourth UN Security Council Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict (London, 2004), reported that the government of Myanmar had an estimated seventy thousand children serving in the armed forces in 2003. Child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo reportedly were forced to commit atrocities and were raped and beaten. Children in Sri Lanka and northern Uganda continued to be abducted by rebel forces. In Colombia children as young as twelve underwent training in the use of explosives and weapons. Colombian girls also fought on the frontlines. Many served as sexual slaves to military officers.

TRAUMA REPORTED AMONG FORMER CHILD SOLDIERS. Since 1986 children in Uganda have been recruited in an ongoing war. In 2004 child soldiers were used by both the Ugandan People's Defense Forces and the rebel forces, the Lord's Resistance Army. Ilse Derluyn, Eric Broekaert, Gilberte Schuyten, and De Temmerman Els interviewed former child soldiers of the northern Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) to determine the nature of trauma the children experienced during abduction by the army. Derluyn et al. also investigated the children's post-traumatic stress symptoms ("Post-Traumatic Stress in Former Ugandan Child Soldiers," The Lancet, vol. 363, no. 9412, March 13, 2004). As of 2004 about twenty thousand children had been abducted by the LRA over a period of eighteen years. A total of 301 children who were in contact with a rehabilitation center participated in the study. During the time of abduction the children had a mean age of 12.9 years, with nearly two-thirds (64%) abducted from their homes. They spent a mean period of more than two years with the LRA.

More than three-quarters (77%) of the former child soldiers witnessed someone being killed, with 6% seeing their father, mother, or sibling killed. Nearly two-thirds (65%) were forced into military training, while 64% were forced to participate in combat. About 39% had to kill another person, and 2% had to kill their own father, brother, or another relative. More than half (52%) were seriously beaten, and 48% were injured. Among the female child soldiers, 35% served as wives to the adult soldiers. Nearly one-fifth (18%) reported giving birth to one or more children while in captivity. Of seventy-one children who agreed to be tested for post-traumatic stress disorder, sixty-nine showed clinical symptoms.

Trafficking in Children

Trafficking in women, men, and children is a worldwide problem. The U.S. Department of State reported in the 2004 Trafficking in Persons Report (Washington, DC, June 2004) that an estimated six hundred thousand to eight hundred thousand men, women, and children were trafficked across international borders in 2003 (trafficking is generally defined as the transport of a person against his or her will, usually for the purpose of exploitation). An estimated 80% of the victims were female, and 70% of those females were trafficked for sexual exploitation. Experts believed that if trafficking within countries were counted, the total would be between two million and four million.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (Division A of Public Law 106-386), enacted in 2000, defines "severe forms of trafficking in persons." (See Table 1.1.) In October 2001, as authorized by the act, the Department of State established the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. The office works with other governments in prosecuting traffickers and in assisting domestic and global victims. According to the 2004 Trafficking in Persons Report, between 14,500 and 17,500 people were trafficked into the United States in 2003.

Organized criminal groups in many countries work with one another in procuring or abducting young girls for the prostitution business, which makes millions of dollars. Very young children are forced into prostitution because clients mistakenly believe that a nine- or ten-year-old will not be infected with AIDS. In many Asian countries, in what is known as debt bondage, girls are traded for money to brothels by their parents or guardians. Many never leave prostitution because they cannot afford to pay for the additional debt added for food and rent.

Child Labor

In 1989 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child as an international human rights treaty. Article 32 of the Convention defines child labor as any economic exploitation or "work that is likely to be hazardous or interferes with the child's education, or is harmful to the child's health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral, or social development" (http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/k2crc.htm%20[accessed November 23, 2004]).

In 2003 the International Labour Office (ILO) published global estimates of working children, using data from national household surveys collected from various countries in 2000 and from 2003 surveys. Overall, the data gathered were extrapolated to 152 countries, which were divided into five regions (Investing in Every Child: An Economic Study of the Costs and Benefits of Eliminating Child Labour, International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), Geneva, Switzerland, 2004). The ILO uses "economic activity" and "child labor" to describe children's work. "Economic activity" encompasses paid and unpaid work, including the production of goods in a market-oriented business owned by a relative in the same household. "Child labor" refers to the following:

  • Ages five to eleven: Children who are economically active
  • Ages twelve to fourteen: Children who are economically active, except those performing light work
  • Ages fifteen to seventeen: Children in hazardous work and other worst forms of child labor

The ILO reported that in 2003 about 182 million children ages five to fourteen were engaged in child labor, representing 18.5% of that age group worldwide. Asia (60.6%) had the largest proportion of child laborers, followed

TABLE 1.2

Percent distribution of child labor and child economic activity, ages 5 to 14, by geographic region, 2003
*Total child economic activity excludes the developed countries.
SOURCE: "Table 3.2. Percentage Distribution of Child Labour and Child Economic Activity, Ages 5 to 14, across Regions," in Investing in Every Child: An Economic Study of the Costs and Benefits of Eliminating Child Labour, p. 32, International Labour Office, International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), Geneva, Switzerland, 2004, http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/ipec/publ/download/2003_12_investingchild.pdf%20(accessed October 27, 2004). Copyright © 2004 International Labour Organization.
Region Child labor Child economic activity
Transition countries 4.6 1.2
Asia 60.6 61.1
Latin America 9.0 8.3
Sub-Saharan Africa 20.8 23.0
North Africa and Middle East 5.0 6.4
Total* 100.0 100.0

by Sub-Saharan Africa (20.8%), and Latin America (9%). (See Table 1.2.)

In Investing in Every Child: An Economic Study of the Costs and Benefits of Eliminating Child Labour, the ILO categorized labor that exploits children into two types: hazardous work and the unconditional worst forms of child labor. Hazardous work is defined by the ILO as "any activity or occupation which, by its nature or type, has, or leads to, adverse effects on the child's safety, health (physical or mental), and moral development." Hazards can also come from too much work, very long hours, and physical conditions of the job. Hazardous work includes mining, construction, and the work that exposes the children to pesticides or heavy machinery. About 10.8 million children ages five to fourteen were engaged in hazardous work, led by Asia and the Pacific (5.1 million) and Latin America (4.6 million).

Children engaged in forced and bonded labor, armed conflict, prostitution and pornography, and illegal activities (for example, working in poppy farms and trafficking in drugs) are considered in unconditional worst forms of labor. Since these activities are typically carried out in secrecy, the ILO considered the figures provided by fifty-six countries conservative minimum estimates. Table 1.3 shows low, medium, and high estimates of this problem, bringing the number of children ages five to seventeen who were performing unconditional worst forms of labor from 8.2 million on the low end to 20.4 million on the high end. Asia and the Pacific region (80% to 90%) accounted for the largest proportion of children engaged in unconditional worst forms of labor.

CHILDREN AS DOMESTIC WORKERS. In the 1990s public attention became focused on the problem of illegal child labor in such industries as the production of clothing.

TABLE 1.3

Children in the unconditional worst forms of child labor, ages 5 to 17, 2003
(In thousands)
Region Low Medium High
SOURCE: "Table 3.4. Children in the Unconditional Worst Forms of Child Labour, Ages 5 to 17 (in Thousands)," in Investing in Every Child: An Economic Study of the Costs and Benefits of Eliminating Child Labour, p. 30, International Labour Office, International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), Geneva, Switzerland, 2004, http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/ipec/publ/download/2003_12_investingchild.pdf%20(accessed October 27, 2004). Copyright © 2004 International Labour Organization.
Transitional countries 9 9 9
Asia and Pacific 6,581 12,691 18,450
Latin America 887 952 1,018
Sub-Saharan Africa 689 770 85
North Africa and Middle East 71 71 71
Total 8,236 14,492 20,398

However, the largest group of child laborers in the world—domestic workers—had not received much attention at all. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) refers to these children as the "invisible workforce," because they usually work by themselves in private homes. The majority (approximately 90%) are girls ages twelve to seventeen, but they can be as young as five years old. These children receive very low or no salaries and put in long hours, sometimes seven days a week. In many cases the children's parents or other guardians collect the salaries. Most child domestic workers do not attend school. Those who live with their employers may not have contact with their families and peers.

In 2004 the ILO reported that as many as ten million children or more were engaged in domestic labor globally (Dr. June Kane, Helping Hands or Shackled Lives? Understanding Child Domestic Labour and Responses to It, Geneva, Switzerland, 2004). The report gives estimates of child domestic workers in various countries, including 700,000 children in Indonesia, 559,000 in Brazil, 300,000 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 264,000 in Pakistan, 250,000 in Haiti, 200,000 in Kenya, and 100,000 in Sri Lanka. Many children were very young. About 22% of domestic child workers in Senegal were under fourteen years of age, 70% in Morocco were under twelve, and 10% were under ten in Haiti.

According to Dr. Kane, due to the hidden nature of domestic child labor, children are at risk of physical abuse and violence, as well as sexual abuse. They may be beaten and tortured, not only by the adults in the house but also by the children in the family who consider domestic workers as their inferiors. They may also suffer beatings at the hands of the other domestic workers in the house. Girls are especially at risk for sexual abuse by their male employers, visitors to the house, and other domestic laborers. In addition, children in domestic service may be exposed to dangers associated with their jobs. They may have to handle hazardous substances, such as cleaning fluids and machinery with which they are not familiar. Poor working conditions, such as rooms lacking in proper ventilation and heating, are also detrimental to their health.

Child Mutilation

Actions considered abusive in some cultures are often celebrated as rites of passage by others. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), female circumcision is practiced by followers of many religions, as well as by animists and nonbelievers. An estimated 100 million to 140 million women and girls have been circumcised worldwide. Each year about two million more girls are at risk of undergoing the procedure ("Female Genital Mutilation," http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en%20[accessed November 23, 2004]).

Female circumcision was first called female genital mutilation in the international document Programme of Action, from the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994 in Cairo, Egypt. Female circumcision may be performed as early as infancy, although the procedure is usually done between the ages of four and twelve. It involves the partial or complete removal of the female genitalia, usually performed without anesthesia. In its most severe form, called infibulation, after the major mutilation of the external genitalia and the joining of the scraped sides of the vulva across the vagina, a small opening that may be as tiny as a matchstick is kept for urination and menstruation. Because of the small vaginal opening, sexual intercourse is quite painful, and the infibulation scar may have to be recut to relieve penetration problems.

Female circumcision is practiced in many African countries, as well as in certain countries in Asia and the Middle East. People who migrate from these regions to the United States, Canada, and Europe bring the practice with them.

Some of the health implications of female circumcision include hemorrhage, shock, injuries to the surrounding tissues, and death. Infections may lead to sterility and chronic pelvic pain. If a woman has been infibulated, she may have to undergo a series of cutting and resewing procedures during her childbearing years. She may also develop cysts, abscesses, and incontinence as a result of damage to the urethra. The risk of being infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that leads to acquired immunodeficiency virus (AIDS) is also possible because the circumciser typically uses the same knife for other procedures, thus potentially spreading HIV from patient to patient.

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