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“a small nuisance like rape”

Most of the educated world has been aghast at the latest (published, at least) atrocity to a female in India.  A lovely young woman died on Saturday.  She was just 23.

After years of sacrifice by her family so she & her brother could be educated, this still nameless young woman had come to the big city of New Delhi to follow her dream of studying to be a doctor.   She was engaged to be married, and her fiance & she had gone out for the evening and were heading home by public transport, as thousands do every day in India.

But this bus was different.  Several drunken men were already on board and decided to have a little fun.  They came prepared, it seems, having brought with them an iron rod.  They beat the young woman’s fiance and then, for several hours on the still moving bus (one has to wonder about the driver in all of this) they took turns raping her, including the use of the iron rod, severely damaging most of her internal organs.   At the end of their fun evening, the men stripped both the young woman and her fiance of their clothing and dumped them at the side of the road, probably laughing as the bus drove away.

For two longs weeks this 23 year old beloved daughter/sister/fiancee battled for life, her injuries being so severe that she was air-flighted to a hospital in Singapore that specializes in the transplanting of multiple organs, but she was too brutally injured to recover.  A lovely young woman, whose dream it was to be a good doctor and help the women and children in her country, was dead.

Because of, and only because of, the enormous public outcry from within India and around the world, the Indian government has decided to outlaw rape.   Yup, you heard that right.  Up until this point, rape has not been considered a crime.  In fact, India’s Law & Justice minister was quoted as saying:

“It’s such a terrible tragedy when a small nuisance like rape turns into to something tragic like murder,” Kumar says. “Yes, the government has known that rape is a problem in society. But we always thought of it as akin to smoking: something to be frowned upon, but not criminalized or prosecuted.

“Now we have this horrible event which reminds us that sometimes rape can have negative consequences.”

If the atrocity of rape is only now being considered a crime, it will be light years before domestic abuse will ever be taken seriously in India.   I can only imagine being Kumar’s wife, after he was quoted as further saying:

“We’ve neglected the issue of sexual violence in our society because frankly I think who someone is sleeping with should be a private affair. If the government goes around telling rapists who they can and can’t have sex with, what is next? Are they going to tell me which of my wife’s orifices I should use?

And then, to finish off his eloquent speech, he says: “It”s a slippery slope and one I wish I didn’t have to face. But if rapists can’t behave responsibly we’re left with no choice but to ban rape altogether.”

Remember our sisters in India today, and pray for a family as they grieve the loss of their precious daughter.   No word to date on her still nameless fiance, as his body & mind begin their long journey of healing.

Photo courtesy of the Heifer Project International, a wonderful organization that supports the education and safety of Indian women.  They welcome your donations.

buying a child’s life … the best of Christmas presents

Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat …”   So goes the old children’s nursery rhyme.  Well, for lots of little children, Christmas will never come unless you help them.  According to the following article by Alison Storm, “an estimated 5.7 million children are forced to work in factories, fields, and brothels all over the world.”

As I’ve shared in a previous post, there is no birthday or Christmas gift that compares to knowing that a child has literally been bought out of slavery in your name.  Can you imagine it?  Yet World Vision, on the post referenced, and other organizations such as Mission: Rescue Life, make that possible.

How about it?  Body wash, the newest CD or a child?  Read Alison’s article in Redbook Magazine and find out some ways to make that happen.

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You Can Save a Child From Slavery

An estimated 5.7 million children are forced to work in factories, fields, and brothels all over the world. Help to stop child labor by doing one thing on this list.

By Alison Storm
Child Slavery

Photo Credit: Carolyn Cole

1. Face the facts. Many people think slavery ended after the Civil War, but, tragically, there are more slaves today than at any point in human history. Millions of child slaves — some of whom are sold by their impoverished parents — work in fields, brothels, private homes, mines, and restaurants overseas and even right here in the United States. “I had read about trafficking, but I was completely blown away when I saw young children being sold for sex on the streets of Thailand,” says Desirea Rodgers, 34, who traveled there with friends for the first time in 2002 to see what she could do to make a difference. Unable to shake the heartbreaking images from their minds, they started plotting the launch of a nonprofit that could help young girls and boys. “Rescue workers told us they weren’t able to help as many children as they wanted to because they didn’t have enough safe places for them to live,” Desirea says, so she and her friends created Love146, which runs a shelter in the Philippines, another Asian country with major child-slavery problems. There, victims receive counseling and education that prepares them to return to their families or reintegrate into society on their own. The nonprofit’s name comes from a young girl, enslaved in a brothel, who was known only by the number clients used to identify her, 146. The Love146 founders were never able to track that girl down again, but they’ve helped dozens like her, including Serey, who was trafficked into a brothel without her parents’ knowledge when she was 17. Serey was rescued by local cops after several months and brought to Love146’s Round Home, where she attended school and worked with a therapist for 18 months. “The Round Home is where my life changed,” she says. “It’s where a new me was born. This home heals the broken.” To help more children find a safe place to restart their lives, give at love146.org/donate. Five dollars provides a victim with a new pair of shoes; $15 buys a school uniform; $80 pays for school books for one year.

2. Shop for fair-trade jewelry and handbags at store.madebysurvivors.com. Started by husband-and-wife team John Berger and Sarah Symons in 2005, the nonprofit has helped more than 500 rescued trafficking victims and their children attend school for the first time and make a living by handcrafting the products sold online. “Education, employment, and economic empowerment are so important. If survivors can support themselves without selling their bodies, they’ll never go back,” Sarah says. Without such intervention, less than 10 percent of children born into brothels escape for good, she says. “I’ve seen traffickers wait outside shelters and toss in notes and cell phones to lure girls out.” The program saved Anjali, who was kidnapped from a train station in Calcutta, India, at 11 and was forced to work as a sex slave for two years. “With this jewelry program, my future is brighter because I’m able to support myself and my mom,” says Anjali. Now she attends school for free through the charity’s education-sponsorship program.

3. Find out how many slaves work for you by answering 11 questions at slaveryfootprint.org. You’ll discover how much slavery plays a part in producing the things you buy, from the mica that gives certain eyeshadows their shimmer to the cotton in some T-shirts — some raw materials are mined or picked by children as young as 6. “By understanding just how big the problem is, we can start demanding that companies are accountable for who’s mining their products and working in their factories,” says Amy Nyquist, a 37-year-old mom of two who helped create the tool.

4. Educate a freed child slave in East India for one year. All it takes is giving up a $3 latte once a week for 52 weeks and pledging it to the charity Mercy 29’s Lattes for Legacies program (mercy29.org/lattesforlegacies.html). Since 2009, the group has negotiated the release of 380 children from India’s quarries, where they worked 12-hour days extracting slate and marble.

5. Scan the barcodes of your favorite products using the Free2Work smartphone app to find out which companies are working to eliminate forced labor from their supply chains. Not For Sale, the nonprofit behind the app, has graded more than 300 brands, which include jewelry, electronics, and even chocolate.

6. Give whatever you can to Save the Children (savethechildren.org/donate ), a nonprofit that helps vulnerable kids in more than 120 countries. In 2010 alone, the group trained nearly 17,000 children in El Salvador to protect themselves from traffickers; in Indonesia, they rescued 10,000 kids from dangerous working conditions.

7. Report a potential trafficking situation. If you suspect that a child in your city may be a victim, call the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 888-373-7888, or submit your anonymous tip online at polarisproject.org/report-a-tip. “Child trafficking is hard to spot,” says Sarah Jakiel, deputy director of the Polaris Project, the nonprofit that runs the hotline. “The biggest red flags are children who are working when they should be in school, have an unreasonable lack of freedom, and show any signs of physical abuse.” Since the hotline opened in 2007, they’ve helped more than 5,000 victims find safe housing, counseling, and legal help in states including Florida and Texas. “Children are lured here from places like Guatemala, El Salvador, and Mexico with the promise of education,” says Kathleen Morris, who leads the International Rescue Committee’s anti-trafficking programs in Seattle. “They know they’ll have to work a little bit, but they often never get to go to school and are forced into jobs with long hours and no pay. What many people don’t realize is that this is happening in places we see on a regular basis, like small coffee shops and construction sites we drive by. It’s hidden in plain sight.”

one mother’s mission to bring her daughter home

I used to think that it was impossible for me to feel a stronger love than I do for my children, and then my daughter in love gave me three beautiful little grand girls.  The heart just isn’t big enough to contain the feelings I have for them.  There is nothing I wouldn’t do for my family.  Nothing.   So, if I learned one day that my daughter or daughter in love had gone out to run an errand, leaving a precious child in the care of safe people and she didn’t return, you bet your bottom dollar that I would be on a mission to find her, and that there would be nothing I wouldn’t do to bring her home.

That’s what happened to an ordinary mother in Argentina.  One day Susana Trimarco’s daughter, Maria de los Angeles “Marita” Verona, a young mother herself, went to a doctor’s appointment and didn’t come home.  For over ten long years, her courageous mother has been searching for her daughter, and what she has accomplished in the process stunned me this morning as I read the article.  In her hunt for Maria, Susana has rescued literally hundreds of Argentine women from the sex trade, women who were enslaved in misery until this remarkable woman helped liberate them.

Susana TrimarcoSusana has been honored with the “Women of Courage” award by the U.S. State Department and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize on Nov. 28. Sunday night, President Cristina Fernandez gave her a human rights award before hundreds of thousands of people in the Plaza de Mayo (photo by Associated Press, Victor R. Calvano).

Susana continues to search for her daughter.  Rumors abound that she has been taken out of the country, that she was sighted just days ago …  This mother will never give up looking.  If she can’t find Maria alive, she wants to bring her body home.  I can’t imagine.

the gift of innocence

For several wonderful days this past week, I was blessed to hear “Nana” when a wee one woke in the middle of the night, knowing my name was safe in her mouth.  Her grandpa and I just grinned at each other in the dark when she & her big sister found their way to our bed at the beach cottage, and snuggled in for giggles and whispers before the sun got up.  Both of us were recipients of spontaneous hugs from fat little arms being wrapped around our necks, and we just drank in all the sweet little kisses & “I love you’s”  …. our little ones felt safe and we treasured their innocence.

It would be so pleasant to live in a bubble, believing that all little ones felt safe with their family members, that their innocence would be fiercely protected by those that they trusted.  As one of our little ones got her first taste of a wave coming in towards her, she ran to us for rescue.   At that second I was made aware of too many little ones who have no one to run to for rescue, because the one that should be their hero is the one who is causing their fear.  Life is not safe, and a little one’s heart can be broken in seconds, and for thousands of precious poppets every day is a living hell.

Be kind today to the snarly teenager bagging your groceries, or his sullen colleague with piercings in multiple places on her beautiful face, to the raging driver in the other lane who cuts you off, to the neighbor who swears at your dog as you walk by … yes, they might all  just be having a bad day, but they might also have been precious little ones who were locked in dark closets, beaten in alcoholic rages or sexually violated by grown ups whose job it was to protect them.  Their emotional development may have frozen at that moment in time, and their wee hearts were shattered.   We can’t go back & change their stories, but perhaps our smile, a genuine “thank you” or “good morning, Sam” might melt one of the bricks in their walls this morning.