Saturday, July 12, 2008
Haiti's Child Slaves
Several years ago Haitian Hearts brought a 14 year old girl to the States for heart surgery. I will call her Fabianne.
Fabianne had two aunts. One aunt was good and the other aunt was bad. The bad aunt and had used Fabianne since she was much younger has a "domestek" in her home. Some would view Fabianne as a child slave.
Fabianne's jobs were to get up early, help her cousins get ready for school, prepare breakfast, and go to market.
Fabianne never attended school and did not know how to read and write.
During meal times, Fabianne had bread soup and sat under the table when she ate her soup. Bread soup consisted of water with specks of bread thrown in.
Her good aunt somehow got hold of Fabianne and took her to the doctor for unclear reasons. The doctor heard a heart murmur and said she needed further work up.
Fabianne's good aunt brought her to Haitian Hearts and we examined her. Her echocardiogram revealed that she had a leaky valve and needed heart surgery. We were able to bring her to a well known children's medical center in the United States.
Prior to surgery, a dental exam revealed carious and abscessed teeth. One tooth required extraction before surgery. Fabianne had never been to a dentist.
The night before surgery, Fabianne had concerned adults in her room that were sitting around worried about her and the dangerous surgery to occur the next day. Fabianne remarked that she was amazed that so many people cared about her.
Her surgery went well and after recuperation, she returned to her "good aunt" in Port-au-Prince.
There are many "Fabianne-type" stories in Haiti.
See article below.
Posted on Fri, Jul. 11, 2008
Free the Slaves Next Door
By DAN HARRIS
A few weeks ago I conducted a horrifying experiment. I tested how long it would
take to leave my office on Manhattan's Upper West Side and buy a child slave.
After a 45-minute cab ride, an hour-or-so wait at Kennedy airport and a 3
½-hour plane ride, I found myself engaged in broad-daylight, poolside
negotiations with a trafficker who said he was ready and eager to provide me
with a kid -- any age, either sex -- as soon as the next day. "I guarante e my
service," he said proudly.
The cost: $150. From start to finish, all it took was roughly 10 hours. This
casually grotesque conversation took place just 700 miles from Miami, in Haiti,
where there are an estimated 300,000 child slaves. There is a slavery epidemic
raging right under America's nose.
The hope is education.
While I had no intention of actually completing the purchase of a child, I was
able -- with astonishing ease -- to interview young slaves and their owners. As
I learned, the real scandal in Haiti is not that you can buy a child; it's that
you can get one for free. Child slavery has become a widespread and, to a
disturbing degree, socially acceptable practice. For generations, impoverished
parents from the countryside have given their children to families in the city,
in the hope that the children would be educated. (Public schools in Haiti,
especially in rural areas, are essentially nonexistent.)
"They dangle like a diamond necklace the promise of school," said E. Benjamin
Skinner, author of a new book on modern-day slavery, called A Crime So
Monstrous. (Skinner gave me the idea to see how long it would take to buy a
child slave.) Usually, however, the promise of education is not kept, and the
children are forced to do domestic labor. They are frequently beaten and raped,
according to human rights activists. When they get too old to be easily
controlled, they're often thrown out onto the streets.
It may not look like pre-Civil War, plantation-style slavery; there are no
legal, public auctions of humans. Thousands of Haitian children are, however,
"forced to work, through force or fraud, for no pay beyond subsistence," an
internationally recognized definition of modern-day slavery.
This epidemic of slavery (which is brutally ironic, given that Haiti is the
only republic in modern history to be founded on a slave revolt) is an
outgrowth not only of poverty (Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western
Hemisphere) but also of lax governance. When I brought the case of Ti Soeur, an
11-year-old slave with whip marks all over her arms, to the Haitian Department
of Social Services, officials promised to act "as early as possible." Days
later, they had taken no action and stopped returning phone calls.
What is the U.S. government doing about this? Not nearly enough, according to
Skinner. Congress did pass the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection
Act of 2000. The law requires the State Department to issue an annual report,
ranking the world's governments based on their efforts to fight slavery. The
worst are subject to sanctions. The most recent report came out two days after
I successfully negotiated for a child. While the State Department criticized
Haiti for not even having a law against human trafficking, it designated Haiti
as a "special case" because its government is in "political transition."
Ask the candidates.
Skinner and others in the modern abolitionist movement say that the U.S.
government has a moral obligation to be exponentially more aggressive in the
fight to free the estimated 27 million slaves around the world. (That is a
larger number, they say, than at any point in human history.)
As a news reporter, I prefer to be descriptive, not prescriptive. But I do have
one suggestion: Let's ask the presidential candidates what concrete steps they
plan to take on this issue. I recently checked how many times the candidates
were asked about modern-day slavery during the countless presidential debates.
The situation for Haiti's child slaves could not be more desperate. When I
asked a trafficker there whether there were any rules about how his customers
should treat the children he sells, he said, "It's yours, you do whate ver you
Dan Harris is an anchor/reporter with ABC News. His report on child slavery
appeared on the news program Nightline earlier this week.
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