Catholic Culture Solidarity
Catholic Culture Solidarity

Child Slaves for Sport

by Barbara Kralis


The eighth of a sixteen part series on human trafficking and Slavery. The author conducted numerous interviews and was granted the use of copyrighted pictures by US Ambassador John R. Miller as well as by two NGO Directors. The plight of human beings at the hands of the slave lords is a deporable situation and this special analysis with the aid of poignant photographs exposes this hidden crime.

Publisher & Date

Renew America, July 27, 2006

Thousands of children as young as two years of age from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sudan are trafficked each year into the Persian Gulf states' dangerous camel racing industry. Trained as camel jockeys, they are often sexually and physically abused, as well as deliberately starved to prevent weight gain. Living in camps encircled with barbed wire near racetracks, the children are dependent upon their cruel captors for survival. Many of the boys crushed by falling camels never receive medical treatment to their broken bodies.

Governmental and non-governmental agencies have great difficulty returning rescued children to their parents and original communities because of the young age of these children, who are unable to identify their family and homeland.

Cheap child labor: The global phenomenon of modern slavery also encompasses children as young as three years of age, standing only thirty-six inches tall, laboring 18 hours, seven days a week, coping with workloads of adults. Unable to celebrate life, the children are not allowed to form friendships, are unloved and uncared for physically, and most times sexually abused, malnourished, easily intimidated. Child slavery has primarily been a focus since the 1980's after the UN General Assembly in November 1989 caught the world's attention. The UN Children's Fund reported 350 million children aged five to 17 are in the hard labor work force and 180 million of them were "involved in the worst forms of child labor — hazardous work, slavery, forced labor, in armed forces and commercial sexual exploitation."

Child slaves can be found globally where they are forced into such hard tasks as carrying chunks of coal from the Brazilian pits, forming dirt and clay bricks in Pakistan for the construction trades, rolling miles of woolen thread onto spools to make hand-knotted carpets in Northern India (that are sold in the U.S. and Europe), harvesting sugar cane in El Salvador using machetes to cut cane for nine hours a day in the hot sun, or picking cocoa in Africa's Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) plantations.

Their tiny spines already deformed like old men and women, their tender hands arthritic and calloused from their downtrodden labor, their lungs plagued by respiratory illnesses in poorly ventilated shops, the children are exploited in numerous physically, emotionally, and mentally exhaustive ways. Children who do not make their quota are beaten or thrown away. Ninety-seven percent of the worst cases of child labor take place in developing countries.

In India alone, estimates put the figure of children in hard labor beyond 10 million children. In Pakistan, where children who labor in various forms of bondage number in the millions, 67% are said to be involved in agriculture, 11% in carpet sectors, 5% in brick kilns, 9% in wholesale and retail, 8% in personal services.

If the child slaves are not in the labor houses or harvest fields, they are used as sexual toys.

The Nigerian government agency NAPTIP recently disclosed that more than 15 million Nigerian children are presently trafficked from rural to urban cities for slavery. A good example of child labor is Ogun State, where stone breakers keep children in the bush with little food, working long hours breaking stones and loading them in "Tippers" or wagons for their slave masters to sell. In addition, Ondo State in Nigeria forces the children to work the cocoa farms under the same conditions.

Despite enacted national laws against child labor and signed international conventions outlawing it, child slavery still exists in the world. In Kathmandu, Nepal, 30% of a family's income comes from its children. According to the ILO, 2.6 million children aged 5-14 (that is 42% of all children in Nepal) are currently working there. Because Nepal's dependency on child labor is so deeply entrenched, only half of the children are allowed to complete the fifth grade.

Not all slaveholders or slave conditions are cruel. In some cultures, slavery is so deeply embedded within the society that not all slaves try to escape or dream of gainful employment. Moreover, not all slave owners are gun-toting hairy tattooed gang or mafia members. Some slaveholders are executives in Armani suits with "clean hands" and influential positions, overseeing operations of multi-national slave markets.

Nevertheless, no matter what the coyotes' public façade or modus operandi may be, the reality is that human trafficking and slavery harms society, violates individual human rights, promotes social breakdown, fuels organized crime, undermines public health, subverts government authority and law enforcement, and imposes enormous economic costs.

Jhalak's story of child labor in Kathmandu
Jhalak's story is typical. An orphan from an early age, Jhalak worked on his uncle's small farm, taking the family cow every day to the jungle. One day, a family friend came in and offered to take him away from village life, saying that in Kathmandu, Jhalak could go to school while working at his home. Once in the city, the man broke his promise and sold Jhalak to a carpet master, who forced him to learn how to knot wool rugs on heavy wooden looms. Workdays started at 4 a.m. and went on until 11 at night. The earthen floor of the factory was Jhalak's bed. When the owner had a rush order, Jhalak and the other boys would have to work through the entire night. The owner was so strict that he even complained when Jhalak had to relieve himself. Jhalak never saw any money and never had a chance to play except when electricity failed. He was working at his loom one year ago in April when a RUGMARK inspector found him and offered him a chance to live and attend school at the RUGMARK rehabilitation center. Jhalak is one of 1,700 children rescued from the looms in India and Nepal since 1995.

Kathmandu has at any one time 1,800-child slaves working 12-15 hour days at the rug looms. [Source: Nina Smith, Executive Director, RUGMARK Foundation]

A condensed version was published in the February and April 2006 issue of Catholic World Report.

Read all 16 columns on the subject of Trafficking of Human Slaves by Barbara Kralis at "21st Century Slavery," "Modern Day Slavery Flourishes," "Different Forms of Human Slavery," "Child Sex Tourism," "Slavery as Domestic Servitude," "Combatant Human Slaves," "Involuntary Human Servitude," "Child Slaves for Sport," "Trafficking--A Trans-National Criminal Enterprise," "How the Trafficking Scams Work," "Trafficking in Your Own Backyard," "Smart Raids & Rescues of Slaves," "U.S. Government Leads Global Battle Against Trafficking," "Catholic Church's Fight Against Trafficking & Human Slavery," "The Hope That No One Should Be a Human Slave," "Exposure of Evil Makes Way For the Good."

Barbara Kralis, the article's author, writes for various Christian and conservative publications. Her columns have been featured at, Catholic World Report, Alliance Defense Fund, Intellectual Conservative, Life Issues, Catholic Culture, The Wanderer newspaper, Phil Brennan's WOW, ChronWatch, North Carolina Conservative, MichNews, Catholic Citizens, Illinois Family Institute, Illinois Leader, New Oxford Review, Seattle Catholic, Faithful Voice, NewsBull, and others. She and her husband, Mitch, live in the great State of Texas, and co-direct the Jesus Through Mary Catholic Foundation. She can be reached at: [email protected].

© 2006 Barbara Kralis

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