“The greatest moral challenge of this century.”

The above is from a recent book review I found on the Guardian website. So what exactly is the greatest moral challenge of the 21st century? Global warming, food security, biodiversity? It actually comes from a far more gruesome place:

Gradually, they (Wudunn and Kristoff) began to see this great global disaster more clearly, discovering that, every year, at least two million girls worldwide disappear because of discrimination. They began to investigate and chronicle its various forms, from sexual slavery to honour killings of women deemed to have disgraced the family, to rape as an extension of war, to genital mutilation, to the less violent but no less damaging exclusion of women from health services and education.


We must remember that the discrimination they mention here is not the ‘softer’ forms we most commonly fight in the developed, western world. This is discrimination as utter exclusion from the regular rights and privileges of a given society. It can include everything from simple disrespect to denial of access to food, medical attention, basic liberty or even life:

Mukhtar Mai,  who grew up in a peasant village in southern Punjab and was gang-raped as a child by members of a higher-status local clan. After that she was expected to commit suicide – that’s what women who have been gang-raped do.

Luckily Mukhtar saw beyond the requirements of her particular cultural milieu:

Instead, she went to the police, and with the $8,300 she received in compensation set up a village school.

The examples and facts quoted in the article are truly disturbing: “Every 10 seconds a girl somewhere in the world is pinned down, her legs pulled apart and a part of her genitals cut off, mainly without anaesthetic.” The aren’t the sort of thing people want to hear, or to talk about, or to think about over dinner, coffee break, or whatever simple dilemma is occupying our mind at the moment. Yet that emotional reaction comes from somewhere; there are certain realities in this world that are utterly intolerable. It’s important that they be discussed, that people become broadly aware of what is actually happening in all the dark and seedy corners of the world.

Much of the Guardian article (and I’m certain the book, Half the Sky, as well) focuses on the ways and means to help individuals escape from this lifestyle: organizations such as PRAJWALA, Half the Sky Movement, the Polaris Project and the Canadian Future Group and humantrafficking.ca. The latter recently had a link to an academic article highlighting the domestic sex trade of aboriginal girls. We need to be reminded that these are not novelties of the horrendous sex trade and tourism of the East, but also prevalent in Edmonton, Vancouver and Montreal.

The amount of information and activity on-line is the only encouraging part of the whole dilemma; people in every major city in the world are aware and striving for change.

I look forward to reading “Half the Sky” amongst other pieces of the growing body of literature on human trafficking. Please feel free to share your own thoughts, information or experiences.

Here’s one final link, to dedicated public discussion on the topic: http://humantrafficking.wordpress.com/

-See their recent post on implications of Craigslist (albeit unwittingly) being involved in human trafficking


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