Slave Children Freed From
Making Christmas Trinkets
‘Tis the season of joy, they say, of singing carols and being nice to your fellow humans. Unless, of course, you’re an impoverished kid in India, locked inside a windowless sweatshop with a bunch of others, forced to work around the clock making cheap Christmas decorations.
‘Twas a night just like any, when a human rights group broke the locks of a fetid warehouse last week, and freed 14 children as young as eight. They were being held in slavery conditions, making the kind of cheerful nothings many of us stuff our houses with, this time of the year.
Thus at least for this dozen-strong victims, the holiday ‘spirit’ did make an appearance. It’s likely though that they will be all back to the same situation, once the international media glare recedes, and we all get busy singing trolla-la-lahs. After all, what’s in your stockings?
In fact, for tens of millions underage Indians, there won’t be liberation anytime soon, according to Global March, the anti-child labor organization that led this particular raid, and former U.K. prime minister Gordon Brown, who’s now special envoy for global education at the U.N.
That’s because despite public outrage and the efforts of many rights organizations, there’s no legislation specifically designed to ban and punish child labor in India and many other countries. And the few set of informal regulations that do exist face insurmountable economic and cultural barriers to be enforced.
SLEEPING IN THE JOB
There are not many details about the specific rally in Delhi that shook (just a little) the world, other than the state of severe malnourishment and absolute squalor conditions of the children. They were living in tiny cells and forced to work 19 hours a day, in the padlocked warehouse.
No information about arrests, if they have been made, were available either, nor indication about to whom or what companies they had been enslaved to work for. In some ways, this lack of specifics has the potential to dilute the impact of raids like this.
But for many, the bigger picture lies beyond merely going around and freeing slaves, regardless of their age. What needs to be changed is the social, political and economic environment that allows such revolting realities to take root in poor and not so poor societies.
Is easy for a relatively well-to-do Westerner to be horrified by the inhumane conditions that many who live below the poverty line are forced to endure. But it’s also easy to dissociate that reality from the ultra-low prices consumers rush to pay at chains such as Wal-Mart and others.
So the focus of human rights organizations is to change, or at least preserve the dignity, of working contracts, while establishing clear and just rules of labor relations. Just what the movement that originated the unions, during the Industrial Revolution, helped to achieve for great part of the last century.
A BETRAYED FUTURE
What’s astonishing is the fact that not as many people as needed are mobilized to prevent the same from happening not just in India and other underdeveloped nations, but right here, in the U.S. Even by conservative figures, there’s an estimated 30 million American children going to bed hungry every night.
Right now, for example, many of those children have even less to expect if elected officials in Michigan and Wisconsin have their way. By attempting to break the back of the two states’ labor movement, such politicians are in fact undermining those who soon enough should be in charge of building this country’s future.
Talking about a season of cheer, there will be none for many American children, and we’re not trying to play the Grinch here. It’s just a reality; what forces most of the one billion Indians to sell their children to slavery is the fact that their parents have long been ousted from the country’s workforce.
With only a third of their population, and an economy many times as strong, the U.S. nevertheless is beginning to look a lot like, well not Christmas. Unless, of course, you own a corporation, say, a media conglomerate, that has made a career out of denouncing a supposed war on the religion named after a man who never belonged to it.
* Unprivileged Children
* Meet My Little Friend
* Remaking America