State Department Country Reports Highlight Treatment
By Paul Mullinger
March 29, 2005
The US State Departmentís Country Reports on Human Rights Practices gives special consideration to the treatment of minorities, women, and children. These groups are often underrepresented in usual power structures, and thus lack the influence to protect and defend their rights. Nevertheless, this yearís reports do note some positive changes.
In Croatia, the restitution of property to Serb refugees has improved, although there is some local obstruction. In Afghanistan and Iraq, women have not only gained the right to vote, but are also able to run as candidates for elective office. Despite these areas of improvement, the reports indicate that too many states still fail to vigorously combat the conditions that engender harmful or discriminatory acts against minorities, women and children. Burma and India are identified as two areas in which government bodies at all levels have condoned or participated in the trafficking of women and children.
Burma is run by a military junta, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), which has never had popular support. Subordinate Peace and Development Councils rule by decree at state, city and village levels. Since the abrogation of the 1974 Constitution, there have been no constitutional laws against discrimination, nor are there any laws against sexual harassment.
The reports indicate that children are at great risk in Burma. Poor children are often taken out of school by their parents to beg or to work in factories and teashops. Increasing numbers of them are exposed to drugs, petty crime and prostitution. Child prostitution and the trafficking in young girls for prostitution across international borders (particularly into Thailand) remaines a major problem.
India is a nation of over one billion people; at the national level, law enforcement does little to handle the problem of human trafficking. Estimates of the number of Indians trafficked into forced labor and sexual servitude run into the millions. According to UNICEF, India contains half of the one million children worldwide who have entered the sex trade. More than 2.3 million women and girls are believed to be working in the sex trade within the country, and an estimated 200,000 persons are trafficked into, within and through India each year.
Such abuses hit the poor and minority ethnic and tribal groups particularly hard. Instances exist of girls as young as age seven being transported from economically depressed areas of Nepal, Bangladesh and rural India to the major prostitution centers of Mumbai, Calcutta and New Delhi. Although some of these girls were forcibly abducted, the reports indicate that most entered the sex trade through false promises of marriage, employment or shelter. Organized crime also plays a significant role in such trafficking. Although the Constitution and the Immoral Trafficking and Prevention Act prohibit human trafficking, it is still a significant problem.
For complete information on the report, and the treatment of minorities around the world, see the full content, available at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/.
Paul Mullinger lives in northern California where he serves as a minister at the Church of Scientology of Sacramento and helps to oversee the Churchís pastoral counseling services.