How much is that baby in the window?
I took a call this week from a reporter saying that her magazine had been investigating baby selling in Europe and found that you could buy a baby for as little as £1,200. Nice.
This is the sort of stuff you hear about at Amnesty – ie a lot of very unpleasant information about very unpleasant topics.
In my time here I think I’ve been as shocked by trafficking in human beings as anything else. The baby purchase story is really an extreme version of this. We’re talking about people buying and selling human beings who themselves have no say in it, are tricked, coerced or downright violently forced into a position of subjugation and powerlessness. All for a price. (Marx’s commodification personified, if you like).
Trafficking is in the news these days following investigations showing that children are being trafficked into the UK and that children’s homes are being used as sort of “holding pens” for them. The kids end up being snatched by gangs, sold on and ruthlessly exploited as forced sex workers, as street criminals, workers in kitchens, on farms – you name it. This is the Dickensian street urchin updated for the 21st-century global economy.
Tomorrow the Home Affairs Select Committee will publish a big report on the “modern slave trade” and it’s likely to paint a pretty grim picture of a situation almost out of control, with government agencies hardly knowing what’s going on and what they can do to combat it. For example, the Daily Record’s reporting a "dramatic increase” in the numbers of trafficked women in Scotland needing help, which is also the subject of a recent Amnesty report.
It is a truly difficult crime to combat. In the sex trafficking trade, for example, the women and girls are often so traumatised (drugged, beaten, raped, terrorised) that the authorities (police, social services, immigration officials etc) generally struggle to understand what’s going on. Are they “illegal immigrants” or “sex slaves”? Are they accomplices of criminals (the gangs, pimps) or actually very vulnerable victims who have suffered multiple horrible human rights violations? (The latter, quite often). Read more here for what Amnesty says should happen (essentially more support for the women/girls from a better-funded and more clued-up set of authorities).
That’s it. No happy end here (though the government did ratify the European convention against trafficking last year and is – slowly – starting to respond to the issue).
And a plug (of a kind), as in previous posts on this topic from me: do check out the stunning film Lilja 4-ever, surely the best feature film ever made about trafficking – and come to think of it, surely one of the best films – in my humble opinion – ever made about anything!)
* A small exhibition of Dana Popa's very powerful trafficking photos from Moldova is on public display in the foyer of Amnesty's office in Shoreditch at 17-25 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA until Friday 29 May. Please pop in!
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.