I love the stories of St. Nicholas, the model for our modern-day Santa Claus, because many believe he worked against child trafficking.
My introduction to the world of child trafficking happened in Asia, though about 1,700 years after St. Nicholas fought it. In May 2001, I was in Mumbai, India, writing an article about forced prostitution of women. I kept hearing the term “child slave,” but assumed it was a rare occurrence.
Early on a Saturday evening one of my contacts took me through Mumbai’s red-light district, which is one of the largest in Asia.
He pointed to a second-floor window. “Do you see the cages in that window?”
“Cages?” I replied. “What’s in them?”
“Five-year-old girls,” he said. “They’re smuggled across the border from Nepal and held in these cages for 30 days. They’re raped, tortured and starved until they no longer have a will to rebel. Only then are they fit to become child slaves.”
I wanted to throw up. That changed my life because I couldn’t stop thinking about what I had seen.
I learned it wasn’t just a child here and there, but that child trafficking happens all over the world, including throughout the United States. Children even younger than the ones in those cages are regularly bought and sold. They’re forced to have sex with different customers 20, 30, even 40 times a night. Night after night after night.
It’s inconceivable to think that this happens in the 21st century, but it does. Human trafficking is organized crime—the second-highest grossing form of illegal industry on the planet. Why? Because a bag of drugs can be sold only once, but a human being can be sold over and over again.
Even here in the United States, child trafficking is rampant, whether teenagers, tweens or even young children like the ones in those cages. It happens in every city and in every part of town—in all socio- economic areas. After all, why would traffickers pick on only poor children? In my city of Orlando, children are regularly trafficked in all parts of the city including a few miles from Disney’s doorstep.
What can we do about it?
Diane Scimone is founder and president of the Born2Fly Project to stop child trafficking and author of “Audacious: The bold, brave brazen plan to shut down the global child sex industry,” and numerous children’s books including “Born to Fly.”