The word ‘injustice’ can invoke in the mind an endless array of imagery ranging from milder occurrences, such as paying women less money than men for the same work, to extreme examples including acts of genocide perpetrated against Jews by the Nazis in Europe, or those waged against the Cambodian people by the Khmer Rouge regime. The word injustice, by definition, portrays this continuum of extremes; its meaning as a noun includes each of these: (Injustice, n.d.)
- the quality or fact of being unjust; inequity
- violation of the rights of others; unjust or unfair action or treatment
- an unjust or unfair act; wrong
When paired with the word ‘social’, the assumption becomes that the perpetration of the injustice is a problem that extends beyond a private concern and is owned by all who belong to the family of humankind: social injustices, then by definition are those injustices that each citizen has a stake in addressing. While there are no shortages of these issues in 2009, one of particular concern to anyone with a conscience is the business of human trafficking, and more specifically, the trafficking of young women, boys and girls in the sex trades.
According to a report from the U.S. State Department (2005), between 600,000 and 800,000 persons are trafficked internationally; although this does not specifically enumerate those trafficked specifically for sexual purposes, the numbers remain staggering. International statistics on trafficking vary widely, but the end result remains: trafficking of women and children across international borders continues to plague the global community. Only two years after the release of this data – widely held to be the most accurate across the world – these estimates grew to over 2 million.
Although sexual trafficking can be found across the globe from the African continent to the Middle East, European and American cities, perhaps some of the most egregious trafficking activities are perpetrated in the crowded cities of Southeast Asia, specifically – Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. According to the US State Departments Trafficking in Person report (2007), Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam are “source, transit, and destination” countries involving persons trafficked for the sole purpose of sexual exploitation. Vast economic differences between regions in the area as well as the region’s global reputation as a destination for sexual tourism combine to create a perfect storm for those most at risk: the poor, the uneducated, immigrants, and very often, the region’s ethnic minorities. While recent progress has been seen in the Vietnamese and Thai governments in relation to policies and enforcement against trafficking, Cambodian authorities remain reluctant to embrace any anti-trafficking initiatives, and at the release of the 2007 TIP (Trafficking in Persons) report, none of these three countries have signed onto the United Nations Trafficking in Persons Protocol 2000.
Numerous factors play a role in the movement of young women and children into trafficking and exploitation circumstances, but it is poverty, and the desperation for basic subsistence that most often lead victims into brothels and slavery. This paper will examine the extent of poverty and the role of basic education in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam in an attempt to uncover the possibility of hope for the children of these regions in the form of education reform and a chance at a life they choose, free from exploitation.
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