Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sexual Violence Linked to the Many Forms of Human Misery

After reading a recent blog posting by Josh Ruxin on the growth of sex tourism and child sex trafficking in Mombasa Kenya, I've thinking about how sexual violence (including sex trafficking, which I see as yet another form of sexual violence) is inextricably linked to many forms of human misery, including catastrophe and disaster, war, poverty and tyranny.

Now comes another article from the New York Times by Barry Bearak that highlights the plight of women and children fleeing from Zimbabwe into South Africa to escape the disease and despair of their home country. Bearak reports that many of these children are orphaned because of the recent cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe, as well as the ongoing political instability there. He describes how, while trying to scrape together a meager subsistence in South Africa, these women and children are victimized by brutal gangs of "swindlers, thieves and rapists." Further, Bearak's article makes the point that many of the girls who find their way to South Africa may be swept up into prostitution and sex work to survive and because of their vulnerabilities (i.e., no food, shelter, protection).

Reading these articles, I find myself overwhelmed at the horror of children, as well as young women and men, struggling every day for survival who are also brutalized by sexual violence and sexual traffickers.

To offer some remedies for these problems, Ruxin describes the importance of government policies as a way to end sex trafficking. Ruxin argues that government policies that enable families to economically support themselves help prevent sex trafficking by protecting children and young adults from economic and social insecurities.

Further, Ruxin states that social and governmental corruption fuel the sex trafficking industry. Corruption exacerbates poverty, which in turn makes children and young people vulnerable to sex traffickers. I imagine that corrupt governments are more likely to turn a blind eye to sex trafficking, too.

Likewise, it is interesting to note in Bearak's article that the South African police are overwhelmed and have few solutions for how address the sexual violence and other crimes against the children from Zimbabwe who have fled to South Africa. Without the policies and laws in place that Ruxin recommends to protect these vulnerable refugees, it is likely that the Zimbabwe children in South Africa will continue to be sexually victimized even as they struggle to survive.

Certainly, these are just two recent examples of the connection sexual violence has to many forms of human misery. Clearly, anti-poverty programs and anti-corruption policies to promote stable, working governments are part of the answer to help address these various forms of human misery, including sexual violence and sex trafficking. However, it also seems that those of us working to end sexual and partner violence should play a bigger role in the development of anti-poverty and anti-corruption efforts locally in our own communities, as well as globally.

My impression is that those of us advocating for an end to sexual, partner and family violence are not always at the table when it come to developing programs and policies to end poverty and social instability. Yet these two articles show that violence is part and parcel of many forms of human misery.

Could those of us who are working to end violence also collaborate to develop solutions for these related problems of human misery? Perhaps we already are? If readers know of examples of such efforts, I would welcome the opportunity to learn more.

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