The most recent case of human trafficking that I have been involved in, and they are many, is that of Angelica- a 15-year-old girl sold by her mother to her employer. He is a rough, crude man, the owner of several mini-buses and from which he earns a lot of money and could afford to buy children for sexual abuse.
Angelica was brought to this middle-aged Filipino man in a distant town to be sexually exploited and abused and that is the crime of human trafficking, child rape, and sexual abuse. He brought her to a hotel and the hotel manager and staff either ignored it or were complicit in the trafficking and he raped her there. Her mother was guilty also of human trafficking of her own child.
There are many hundreds of thousands of similar cases of human trafficking and abuse happening every day around the world and not only in the Philippines. It is all too common especially in Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East and the United States, anywhere where laws are lax and not enforced. In some countries, child abuse is tolerated under some guise of cultural practice like child marriage, which is rampant in Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan.
An estimated 24.5 million adults, children, and youth have been victims and are trafficked worldwide in the past decade by organized crime syndicates. Human traffickers are criminals who operate in many ways. Most of the 24.5 million victims are women and 33 percent are children under the age of 18.
The victims of human trafficking are almost always poor, unemployed, not well educated and vulnerable. Many minors come from broken families, are abandoned and left with a distant relative who neglects them and treats them as a servant or sells them to traffickers for a promised job in a hotel or as a domestic helper. They are frequently abused, underpaid and sexually exploited. The root of the problem is in the broken home. Without a secure, stable loving and caring family, children don’t have a chance to succeed in life. When the parents have no love for each other, the child is generally unloved too. They are easy prey for human traffickers.
Human trafficking and abuse of women and minors as underpaid labor is so widespread that millions of people are trafficked everywhere. From Eastern Europe, many thousands are trafficked and brought to wealthy Europeans in the mega-brothels, which are legal. But the women are not free to leave and are trapped in a web of insidious debt.
In some countries like the Philippines, the age of sexual consent for a child under the Penal Code is very low, 12 years of age, and abusers take advantage of that to justify a relationship. The Penal Code must be changed. However, in the Philippines, the child protection law otherwise known as Republic Act 7610 supersedes the old Penal Code. Anyone who abuses a child sexually below the age of 18 is criminally liable. If the child is below 12 years of age, it is statutory rape.
If you know of a child being abused physically, psychologically or sexually you are morally and legally obliged to report the abuse to the parents or relatives, to a trained social worker, a police officer or government official or to anyone who can help. Failure to do so makes a person liable to complaints of complicity, aiding and abetting child abuse and human trafficking and even obstruction of justice if one person stopped another from reporting it and especially if the child asked for help and was refused.
In the case of Angelica, it was the child who suffered greatly. She hated what her mother and the man did to her and one day just after another session in the hotel where the abuse happened, she went to a local government official in the barangay hall and reported that she was being abused. She did not report that her mother sold her to the accused.
The suspect was arrested and jailed right away since the report was received within 24 hours of the crime being committed and he was charged with human trafficking and child rape. He paid the grandmother to file a case of habeas corpus case to get the child out of the Preda home but the child told the judge that she wanted to stay. The case of human trafficking and child rape is ongoing and Angelica, after a year in recovery, was able to testify clearly and coherently. He will surely be convicted.
It is very important that we all understand and are aware of what is going on in the world. Human trafficking of children for sexual exploitation is everyday crime. Child sexual abuse is all around us, we just don’t know it as they are ordered with threats to remain silent. They fear they will not be believed, that they will be severely punished if they reveal it. Most live with the pain and secret all their lives.
It’s a fact that one-in-four girls are sexually abused at least once in their lifetime. The demand is persistent, abusive men even consider it an entitlement to do it and disregard and circumvent laws forbidding it with the help of human traffickers, corrupt police and sex tourist hotels and resort owners. Local government units give operating permits to these sex bars, hotels, and resorts. They see them as a sexual Disneyland. Some officials are child abusers themselves. It is an urgent demand fueled by the internet and online cyber-sex business catering to the wealthy elite who want such evil sexual satisfaction, dominance and control of other human beings.
This terrible exploitation of human beings like what happened to Angelica is indeed slavery, banned but never conquered, condemned but never eliminated, opposed but still lives on. We must never give up the fight to overcome this pernicious evil and save the millions of exploited victims.