By Katie Sobiech
A ballerina dances to the music in a young girl’s jewelry box, Barbie dolls lay sprinkled on the floor, a warm home with loving parents…none of these things are a reality for countless girls around the world.
Instead, they are forced to cut off the dreams blooming inside of them and grow up real fast – many becoming mothers before even reaching their teen years.
Stop the Trafficking, a conference held at The Chapel last month, brought to light the issues that are taking place across the world and right here in America.
Temple Goddesses may sound like a thing from the past, but this is going on now, and it is affecting you and me. Sadly, many Americans are supporting this type of behavior. The purpose of the conference was to show us how we can stand and fight against it.
Opening Our Eyes
2012 is about opening our eyes to a world that truly exists – and not just in far-off places around the world, but right here in Akron, Ohio.
Young girls are becoming prostitutes at just 12 years old, run-aways and those aging out of foster care are becoming targets and victims, and women are being sold and escorted off to bigger cities for more profit.
Girls, near and far, are being cut off from educating themselves. Dreaming of a life they were created to live is not part of the picture. Allowing themselves to dream is being snuffed out by those in authority over them, who view them as property.
Though the majority of this is happening overseas, it hits very close to home, with Toledo being one of the top four cities known for trafficking in America.
So why should this matter to us? How does it affect us?
It is a local issue. The United States financially supports this injustice through trafficking girls in the states and international pornographic internet viewing.
Lives with Purpose
Internationally, children are often sold by their poor parents who believe they have no other option, or tricked into fraudulent marriages, or promised good jobs, only to be faced with the terror of being caught in a trafficking situation – for life. Their bodies are misused, abused and then treated like trash – often disposed of when they no longer seem to be of any value.
Some are even shipped to the U.S. like items, not human beings.
The good news is that there are advocates working daily on the behalf of this injustice, to bring forth a little more light.
“This is an exciting journey for me as a Christian,” Dr. Joseph D’Souza, speaker and President of the Dalit Freedom Network, said of his work in aiding against this horror.
He says his goal is to “Move the global community to action”.
He also pointed out that there is more slavery today than there was 200 years ago.
“If we bypass this, history will judge us (very harshly),” he said.
D’Souza sees the worst cases on a daily basis.
During the conference he shared stories of how it has become very widespread that families in India offer their little girls to temples as slaves, followed by purification ceremonies. The Priest rapes them and sends them into the villages to live as prostitutes. The “overflow” are sent to Brothels in Calcutta and other villages.
Not for Sale
D’Souza recalls one young slave girl begging “I want to get out of this hell. Who will help me?”
Her pretty face had been slashed by an older man so that she would be considered undesirable.
A quarter of a million girls like her are sold into slavery. Every 3 seconds, another girl becomes a child bride.
These girls are young, uneducated and many get pregnant before their bodies are even able to give birth – which leads to other health problems.
“It’s so damaging they say they’ll never recover,” Carolyn Custis James, President of Whitby Forum and Synergy Women’s Network, and author and speaker, said.
Not physically prepared to have children, they are scarred so badly that they are marked “damaged” for the rest of their lives. Many need surgery but are unable to afford it.
The girls become puppets on a string for these men.
“You sell a gun one time but can sell a girl multiple times. It’s more lucrative than guns and drugs,” Custis James said.
“The statistics are mind-numbing,” she continued, on the numbers of girls who are dealing with this.
Ending a Thousand Year Torture Chamber
“Temple prostitution has been going on for a thousand years. It will end in this decade. Is it possible?” D’Souza asked the audience, hopeful.
The problem, D’ Souza says, is that 80% of rescue victims go back to their enslavement because there is no alternative community or profession that pays enough to take care of themselves and their families. They see no other option.
This is why we, as a society, must work together to offer these girls an alternative – a safe place and education so that they can support themselves in a dignified way.
Most of them have no money, nowhere to go, nothing to eat and see no other choice – so they end up back in the brothels. From there, many end up getting shipped to the U.S., or used overseas by traveling U.S. businessmen – which is why D’Souza finds it so important to educate Americans.
Stay tuned for next week’s story where we will be sharing rays of hope in the midst of this storm. Find out what people are doing today to turn things around for these women and children, empower them and how you can help.
You can also request a free speaker from the Summit County Committee Against Human Trafficking by emailing: SummitCoAgainstHumanTrafficking@yahoo.com or the Stark County Committee Against Human Trafficking by calling Kitty Scherer (330) 499-9663.