According to 2008 estimates by the US State Department, there are over 1.2 million new children trafficked each year, with an additional 1 million children trafficked for the purpose of sexual slavery. Numerous attempts have been made to stem the rise of kidnapping, sexual abuse, child soldiery, and slavery. The United Nations attempted to protect children by adopting the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (hereafter CRC). While the CRC has its strong points, it has only proven effective at stripping member states of national sovereignty, while proving to be inadequate and inept in solving the problems it set out to address.
CRC-member states are universally seeing a rise in the number of children involved in organized crime and various forms of slavery. In South Africa, “children are recruited to run errands, spy on potential and actual ‘clients,’ and gain access to areas and quarters which are difficult for or closed to adults.” In April 2009, the United Kingdom reported a 90 percent increase in child trafficking: 957 cases from April to December of 2008. The British authorities also note that “it is likely that only a fraction of the victims are actually caught”—the numbers are far higher than what was reported.
The Italian and Sicilian Mafia have aggressively pursued child operatives for a number of missions, ranging from theft and subterfuge to assassination and pornography. Italy signed the CRC on January 26, 1990; it was one of the first signatory states. Eight years later, 8,000 Albanian girls were trafficked through Italy as prostitutes, with the number of new prostitutes from Albania alone reaching almost 1,000 by the year 2000. Albanian girls are also among the youngest girls trafficked internationally, with over 80 percent of them under the age of eighteen. By 2009, the number of new women being trafficked from Nigeria to Italy alone was 1,782. It is not surprising that Italy has been described as “a trafficking stronghold.”
In 2000 there were also between 10,000 and 12,000 children actively involved in organized crime in Italy, with the number of cases of juvenile crime reaching almost 70,000 cases. Of these crimes, there were 2,600 cases of violent robbery, almost 20,000 cases of automobile theft, over 500 cases of serious assault, and almost 1,700 cases involving the use of illicit drugs. And remember, these are only the cases which were caught in 2000; the real number is much higher.
The Sicilian Mafia has been using Roma Gypsy children under the age of 14 as hired blades and weapons manufacturers for over a decade, because they “are too young to be tried as criminals.” The Chief of Police in Caltanissetta, Sicily, noted that children are usually used “in support roles, acting as lookouts and collecting weapons,” but also noted that “the age at which youths start to kill has reduced significantly.” Children 11 years and younger are routinely trained by the Sicilian Mafia to kill—and kill without remorse.
Why is child crime rising? Chris Hume, Director of Practice and Performance with the Youth Justice Board in the United Kingdom, notes that it is “obvious” that these crimes would not occur if parents and the home environment were stronger. International agreements which lack enforcement are not Mr. Hume’s solution—he bemoans the lack of parental involvement. The answer to rising child crime is not the high rhetoric without any enforcement, found in the CRC. Men and women across the globe recognize the critical role of the family unit in protecting children and providing for their future.
In Benin, we find similar stories. Children who were forced to live with extended relatives instead of their parents because of financial reasons point to the severing of familial bonds as the reason for easy child trafficking and various forms of domestic abuse. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, young girls are routinely used as sex slaves at night and combatants in tribal wars during the day. Why? Because the family is absent: they have no one to protect them or instruct them on how to live a better life.
David Nowell, President of Hope Unlimited for Children, has worked for decades in Brazil to reconstruct the family. In his article, “U.S. Should Take a Pass on UN Child Rights Act,” Mr. Nowell notes that his organization “exists to some degree because of the damage caused by the UNCRC since it was ratified [by Brazil] in the early 1990s.” He notes how millions of children have found themselves on the streets in Brazil because of the dissolution of the family, leading children to engage in illicit and harmful activities. According to Nowell, “Children now have the legal right to become truants, join gangs and abuse alcohol. In no small measure due to the trauma visited upon Brazil by this convention, the country's streets are now home to millions of children. Childhood drug dealing and prostitution are rampant.” He further discusses how the child prison system has become overcrowded due to the CRC—which is supposed to help children. Instead of assisting them, the CRC requires organizations like Hope Unlimited to step in and provide necessary care and guidance for children.
The universal nature of the problem requires us to be ready for problems here at home. The best answer is to affirm and defend the rights of parents to direct the upbringing of their children, encouraging their involvement in their child’s social and moral development. The Parental Rights Amendment (HJR 42, SJR 16), will both protect the rights of parents while maintaining the rights of law enforcement to intervene in the case of child abuse and child neglect. Such action provides effective enforcement through parents and preservation of our most critical traditions.
In 1907, James Oliphant, wrote an article entitled, “Parental Rights and Public Education,” in the International Journal of Ethics. He wrote, as far back as 1907, that the desire to protect parental rights is based on “a belief, based upon observation and experience, that social stability is primarily founded on family life, and that every weakening of the bond between parents and their children must have its influence on wider relations” (James Oliphant, “Parental Rights and Public Education,” International Journal of Ethics, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp. 205-217 (January 1907), 208). This article preceded all Supreme Court decisions enumerating parental rights, and all discussion of its importance in the legal realm: we have known the power and influence of parental involvement on social stability for over a century—and arguably across the centuries from time out of mind. Parental rights need to be adequately protected for the sake of the children. Visit www.parentalrights.org today and get involved in truly protecting children, by empowering their parents.