Child Trafficking: Addressing Modern Day Slavery with Your Kids

Upstream founder, Chalermkwan (Amm) Chutima wrote this article which was first published here


A common Bible story we read to our kids is the account of a boy who had a coat of many colors. Kids learn that this boy, seventeen-year-old Joseph, was sold by his older brothers as slave to tend the house of an Egyptian nobleman (Gen. 3729). We often use Joseph’s story to teach children about God’s sovereignty in all circumstances, but sometimes we overlook an important word within that narrative: slave. Because slavery is a horror many endure today, Joseph’s story is an opportunity for children to study and understand even modern-day slavery so they may develop a heart that longs to bring freedom to the oppressed.

What is Modern Slavery?

Modern slaverytrafficking in persons, and human trafficking have been used as umbrella terms for the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercionThe Global Slavery Index reports that up to 45.8 million people globally live in modern slavery through hard labor, human trafficking, forced marriages, forced labor, child labor, or debt bondage. Nearly one in three victims of slavery is a child, some as young as five or six years old.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), however, there are more than 200 million child laborers around the world. Child labor is not always considered slavery, but it nevertheless hinders their development and is against their rights. One example is children who work below the legal age for employment and miss opportunities to go to school. The ILO also reports that of the children in child labor, some 115 million are engaged in hazardous work that irreversibly threatens their health and development through exposure to dangerous machinery or toxic substances, and may even endanger their lives.

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The Role of Mental Health Services Before Trafficking Even Happens

This article was originally posted on The Freedom Story’s website. A link to it can be found here.

It is widely understood that victims of trafficking and abuse would be in need of mental health care services to aid in restitution and rehabilitation. It probably comes with no stretch of the imagination that social workers in the anti-trafficking industry would also need support to handle the emotional toll of the work they do. What may not be obvious, however, is that mental health services are also critical to the prevention of child slavery and exploitation. In this piece, we’d like to share the story of one of our students, Nong Gaht, to emphasize the role proper mental health care can play in expanding freedom and opportunity—and how oppressive the lack of it can be.

Nong Gaht comes from the same village as one of our Freedom Story staff members. At the age of 11 years old, he had been living in the village with his mom, who is illiterate and has mental health issues, and with his drug-addicted stepfather. He began getting into trouble for getting more aggressive and doing inappropriate things, like hitting and inappropriate touching of himself and girls. The behavior was, naturally, unacceptable to the local community, but the causes were not understood. Village elders had a meeting and decided he needed to leave. With the help of Freedom Story staff, his mother took him to a government home and lived with him there. However, the people there were also ill equipped to understand or help manage his behavior. They took him to see a psychologist who had diagnosed him as bipolar and gave him heavy medications (ones typically used to treat seizures, epilepsy, Parkinson’s, bipolar disorder, mania and schizophrenia) essentially to sedate him so he could be better controlled.

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