Women at the Mercy of Globalization – I

Globalization – an Introduction

Garda Ghista
We need to understand clearly, what is globalization. It is not an abstract academic or intellectual word. Globalization means global capitalism. In the most simplistic terms, capitalism means this: If you have 20 apples and 20 people, and if 1 person eats up 18 apples, then naturally his tummy will be full and happy. And the remaining 19 people will have to share 2 apples – their tummies will be growing in hunger and then in anger. This is capitalism in action. Capitalism means wealth for a very few, and poverty for many. And global capitalism or globalization means global poverty – fast-spreading global poverty. It means the poor slum dwellers in India who have to hunt daily for wood to make a fire – will not even find any wood for their fire. It means, even the food at the ration shops will be too costly for the poorest people to purchase. Hence, globalization really and practically means, increasing starvation.

Globalization is not restricting itself to inflicting suffering on third world countries. Its tentacles are also reaching into the heart of industrialized hi-tech nations. According to The Early Show: The Faces Behind the Numbers, Tuesday Oct 30, 2001, “more than a million Americans have lost their jobs in 2001, many of those in layoffs that occurred before Sept. 11.”1 It is further reflected by the new ‘working poor’ in America – all the people who work at TNC’s such as K Mart, MacDonald’s, Walmart – where their owners, in a cold calculated manner, carefully and cunningly organize that no employee work more than 30 hours per week, because this frees the owner from paying them any benefits such as health care and pension plan. Such is the unmitigated shameful greed of individual capitalists for more and more wealth. Their employees receive wages so low that they have to choose on the first of each month whether to pay the rent or to purchase food! As Barbara Ehrenreich writes in her latest book, Nickel and Dimed , “Something is wrong, very wrong, when a single person in good health, a person who in addition possesses a working car, can barely support herself by the sweat of her brow. You don’t need a degree in economics to see that wages are too low and rents too high.”2 Why are wages not going up? Ehrenreich writes that “The most obvious reason why they’re not is that employers resist wage increases with every trick they can think of and every ounce of strength they can summon.”3 According to the Economic Policy Institute, a “living wage” for an adult and two children would constitute an income of $30,000 a year, which translates to a wage of $14.00 an hour. Millions of Americans earn way below $14.00 per hour.

Capitalism surely means the freedom of opportunity, the freedom to acquire more and more wealth. But, without any kind of morality or fundamental ethics, without any kind of love and compassion for one’s fellow man, without selflessness of character, capitalism at work becomes the most insidious evil today on our planet. It is insidious because we cannot see it clearly. It is hidden from our eyes. We have to read, study and then grasp its evil. Bush is talking about the evil of the Taliban. Let us talk instead about the evil of capitalism. In Bush’s State of the Union speech on January 30th, 2002, he brought in a new term now being highlighted by the media – “axis of evil”. Of course, Bush means “terrorists”. This paper will declare again and again that the real “axis of evil” in the world today is capitalism and globalization. It is capitalist greed that has driven Bush to make war on Afghanistan. There are huge oil reserves in Uzbekistan and Tadzikistan. Bush’s family is in the oil business! There is also a thriving heroin business in Northern Afghanistan. More millions to be made by Bush and CIA cohorts! And third, the Bush family owns companies that are in the business of manufacturing and selling weapons. So if there is war, even for a short time, imagine how those companies will flourish! These are some of the real reasons why America is at war in Afghanistan. There is huge profit to be made for a few select people – our political leaders. A wise friend told me, ‘Just follow the money trail, and you will understand everything.’

How can the poor person in any country understand the deadliness of capitalism and of globalization? For those of us who can clearly grasp the consequences of capitalism, it behooves us to teach others, in simple language, using simple pictures and graphs – what is capitalism, how it creates poverty, and how today it is creating global impoverishment, starvation and the death of millions. The suffering caused by capitalism is immiserating entire continents. Globalization means capitalism run amuck in the world. It is like one mutant cancer cell in our lung or our liver that starts multiplying fast, racing through our body until it is everywhere – causing horrible pain and then death — this is globalization.

It is also our moral obligation to join hands with other activists who already understand, to work with them to fight against global capitalism. We need to come together and think, what strategies can we take to delete globalization from the face of this earth! We need to take action. We cannot sit any longer and wait and watch as the destruction of human beings increases by the minute. We need to begin destroying their machine! How to do it? For this, the poor people in every country, and the middle classes who care for their suffering, must sit and plan, and take concrete steps to achieve this goal.

What steps lead to poverty? In America, as an example, the minimum wage is 40% below subsistence level. Many capitalist owners pay minimum wage or even below minimum wage to illegal immigrants, such as Mexicans, because they can do nothing. If the illegal immigrants complain, they will be thrown out of the country. If it can be arranged, the capitalist owner doesn’t pay anything. He gets slaves to work for nothing – they are his prisoners until they cannot work any longer. Then they are discarded – thrown on the road. Mind you, the capitalist owner is sitting in his office on Fifth Avenue in New York, USA. The slaves are in Sudan or Tamil Nadu in South India. There are intermediaries – buffers or middlemen organizing the production / manufacturing. The capitalist owner is not directly involved in the slave trade. That is why he can convince himself that he is a good human being. If the labor of production is cheaper in Malaysia than in America, the capitalist owner will set up his factory in Malaysia, and pay local minimum wage. If the labor of production in Sudan is free, by getting thousands of slaves, the capitalist owner will set up a factory in Sudan. This is global capitalism in action. This is globalization. The finished products will be taken back to US to be sold. Profit is everything. The value of human beings is nothing. So if you see George W. Bush on TV saying, “Globalization will end poverty. We need globalization.”, what will you understand?

Globalization Affecting Women

We need now to understand how globalization affects women in particular. If we look at Kentucky, USA statistics, the median annual income for female-headed families in Kentucky is $10,700. In 1995 17% of all women in Kentucky lived below the poverty level.4 Kentucky ranks in the bottom third of the country in the following categories: percentage of college educated women; percentage of women owning their own business; and percentage of women above poverty level. Two-thirds of single-mother families with children in Kentucky under six live in poverty.5

Most of the poor people in every country are women. Who is it who primarily works at K Mart and Walmart? It is women, and that too many of them elderly. When the illegal immigrants come to US, and get jobs working in sweatshops, who primarily is working in those sweatshops where they will be lucky to earn one dollar an hour? It is women. It is women who live in poverty. Being poor, can you imagine how it affects the home life? How many fights there will be in the house due to not enough money to buy food and other basic necessities?

In the past few decades, the world has seen the collapse of communism and the rise of globalization. In those same formerly communist countries, did any new economic structure arrive to save the people from hunger and starvation? No. The Eastern European countries are financially bankrupt and poverty is rampant. The result has been a sharp increase in, for example, sex trafficking of women to the wealthier western European countries and even to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait. If there is no food and no money, people become desperate. Women become desperate. Survival is the strongest instinct in humans and animals. In other countries like Mexico, India and Bangla Desh, women begin to work in the maquiladoras6 at subsistence wages for twelve hour shifts, thus destroying their bodies through exhaustion and disease and further destroying their family life, simply because husband and children never see their mother any longer. Here we learn very clearly that the corporate bosses specifically target women and not men. After all, women are more subservient and fearful, especially in the third world countries. And women are more willing to work for lower wages because they are used to it. It is the custom in every country of this patriarchal world. They will not object. Even in America the women do not object that for every dollar a man earns, a woman earns 73 cents for the same work per hour. In Japan, for every dollar a man earns, a woman earns less than 50 cents for the same work per hour. It is accepted.

We learn of the horrible convolution of agricultural methods which at one time were so logical and beneficial to local people and now serve only the corporate CEOs and throw indigenous people into an abyss of helplessness and despair. We learn of the readiness of parents to sell their daughters into sex slavery so as to purchase a few more kilos of rice for the rest of the family to stay alive. Fifty years ago in Nepal there was no poverty. There were no beggars. Today, thanks to the IMF’s structural adjustment policies, Kathmandu is crawling with starving, wretched human beings begging for survival. It is due to the selfish, self-centered, profit oriented intervention of the World Bank, the IMF, and the transnational and multinational corporations.

Another clear cut example of globalization’s direct effect on women is in the area of mining. Kerima Mohideen, who coordinated an international conference on women and mining, stated that it is women who

“…often bear the brunt of the projects’ human costs. Mining-related environmental damage has cost women their health and traditional livelihoods, and increased their burden of work. In some cases, mining companies have undermined women’s status in a community.”7

On the island of Bougainville (Papua New Guinea) copper and gold-mining has provoked civil war for decades. The mine has destroyed “the rainforest, wiped out all life from the Jaba river and silted the Empress August bay to a depth of 30 metres.” A woman activist named Perpetua Serero said,

“We don’t grow healthy crops any more, our traditional customs and values have been disrupted and we have become mere spectators as our earth is being dug up, taken away and sold for millions.”8

Bougainville has a matrilineal society. However, when the Bougainville Copper Ltd. Mining company negotiated, they dealt with the men only, thus hurting their status and culture. For this very reason it was the women who began guerilla warfare against the mining company until it closed down in 1988. In the Philippines, mining is taking over what was good farmland. Women who had worked for decades or centuries as farmers and animal herders have been forced to find other ways to survive, including prostitution. In the Bolivian mines women are compelled to work 4,000 meters above sea level with their feet soaked all day in water filled with toxic chemicals. For this very reason, at international women’s conferences such as the 1995 Women’s Conference in Beijing, indigenous women from many countries are demanding a ban on uranium and other kinds of mining in their respective countries.9

There is, however, a tiny miracle growing like a beautiful lotus flower above the muddy water. In some countries the farmers, and the women, are beginning to reject the selfish agricultural policies that are destroying their land, and are using their own minds and hands to return to previous, far more successful farming techniques, including multi-cropping, supplementary cropping and crop rotation.

Globalization and Food

Since the beginning of time, women have been involved with food – with its cultivation, harvest and with cooking preparation! Deborah Barndt, in her book Women Working the NAFTA Food Chain: Women, Food & Globalization, tells us about her Tomasita project, wherein she traces a single tomato on its journey from a field in Mexico all the way to a fast food restaurant in Canada. Undertaking this single task created an entire book about the new movement of food as a direct result of globalization. She writes about how the very poorest Mexican women are hired to work in the fields, often carrying their babies and small children with them. From the fields the tomatoes go to big warehouses where again the poorest women sort them by size and color, keeping the best ones for export to America and Canada. Ironically, after those same tomatoes are shipped to Ontario, for example, it is once again the poorest of women – Mexican immigrants – who are brought specifically from Mexico to continue the work of further tomato processing to keep them ready for Canadian consumption.

In the food business, women and not men are specifically targeted by corporations, because it is felt that they will protest less than men would, and second, they will work for less. It is a clear example of how global capitalism is affecting third world women far more than men. In Mexico it is the women who do maximum agricultural work. In India also, it is the women who do maximum agricultural work. Hence, under corporate agri-business, it is those women who become its greatest victims. Barndt’s Introduction is called “In the Belly of the Beast”. The beast she is referring to here is the “many-faced monster” – the “continually globalizing economy that is built on centuries of colonization, imperialism and western development.” The food ‘system’ today is only one slice or part of this global economy. She shows us how NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) continues to have a devastating effect on the poor. The poor marginalized people and particularly the women are surviving in the belly of the beast. NAFTA’s effects on the environment, on land rights, on workers and even their social and cultural lives are all explored. There are many small beasts that make up the monster, such as “the commodification of food, the distance between production and consumption, the restructuring of work, the alienation of shifting eating practices.”10

Finally Barndt and her co-authors explore alternatives, and refreshingly come up with local community and cooperative arrangements along the lines discussed later in this paper. It is as if the minds of all women who begin to understand the devastating nature of global capitalism become as one mind in seeking the rational, humane and divine solution to this evil. For the poor Mexican women, they are presently locked in a chain of occupations that keep them at a level poorer than poor. They may be in the fields, backs bent in pain, picking tomatoes. They may be working part-time in agribusiness doing sorting and food processing. They may work in supermarkets at minimum wage. (We already know that people in America cannot survive on the present minimum wage.) Or they may work in restaurants and fast food outlets such as McDonalds where they again face minimum wage, part-time hours to ensure they receive no benefits, company loyalty and unorganized unstructured labor. Mexican women in the fields suffer great health risks as they are surrounded by highly toxic agrochemicals without any protection. Their status as the poorest of the poor in Mexico means their value is nothing. Hence, they receive no care and are discarded in a second, being replaceable in the next second. Already maximally oppressed by their own society, it becomes worse under the transnational corporations looking for maximum profit. There are still more negative ramifications from the selfish actions of transnationals. As an example, the poor Appalachian women in Kentucky, USA are suffering new heights of poverty due to transnationals moving south to utilize the cheaper Mexican women’s labor. Consequently the Appalachian women face a new struggle for survival, sometimes going into the poultry business, sometimes moving to more desperate alternatives. Countries which grew their own multiple, life-sustaining crops for centuries have been destroyed by colonization and now corporatization and the demands of NAFTA, GATT, the IMF and the World Bank. Ghana now specializes in cocoa, Honduras in bananas, Martinique in sugar, Indonesia in coffee, and Saskatchewan in wheat.11 But centuries ago, this was not the case. Smaller crops were grown that enabled the local people to be self-sustaining. They had their dignity.

With its advanced technological methods of farming, America was able to outdo other exporting countries, so that if it was exporting potatoes, other countries previously growing and/or exporting potatoes were outsold by America. They could not compete. Those farmers went bankrupt and closed down. So while hitherto they had been self-sufficient food-wise, now those same third world countries became shamefully food-dependent on American exports. During this period, individual governments tried their best to help the local farmers by giving them grants. The corporations did not like this as it eroded their profits. They wanted a totally free hand, free of all national restrictions on their corporate power to relocate their factories to any place they wanted. They wanted rules to this effect, and thus were created the international institutions that we know today – the IMF, the World Bank, NAFTA, GATT and so forth. Being international in nature, they have declared themselves as having authority which is greater than any individual country. In this connection, they are demanding patents of natural resources in other countries – which makes the leadership of those countries look like fools as they appear to have no power to lead their own country any longer.

With America exporting its food and also its food chains such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and Kentucky Fried Chicken, we have what Indian activist Vandana Shiva calls “globalization of western local knowledge”, as according to her, “a truly cosmopolitan world culture would consist of many local cultures existing together, mutually and respectfully exchanging and learning from one another.”12

Thankfully, after years of oppression, more and more people and especially women are proposing new alternatives to corporatization of their lives. Survival strategies are emerging around the world in every country. The alternatives are entirely local, Different alternative groups are coalescing to create their own set of rules that are equitable and democratic, that address the problems of food security, environmental degradation, labour rights, women and health. They are starting projects such as community-shared agriculture and community kitchens – both of these being cooperatively oriented.

Further on in her book, Deborah Barndt talks about the ‘feminization of poverty’ and the flexibilization of labor’. Feminization of poverty refers to the fact again that corporations understand clearly that by hiring women instead of men they will rake in the maximum profit. Hence, women are the greatest victims of capitalism everywhere.

Globalization of Agriculture

What happens when agriculture gets globalized? Previously, in many countries the women used to be largely in charge of agriculture. They used to work in the fields all day, they used to supervise the work of harvesting. They would make arrangements for sale of the crops. They served as labor, and also as managers and decision makers. Now, the big capitalist corporations are moving in. What do they do? They hire their own people to do the work for them at minimum wage. Those women who once were managers and leaders in their own right – they are now reduced to pulling weeds on the roadside to survive. It is a shameful scene.

In the book Shifting Sands: Women’s Lives and Globalization , Joy Deshmukh-Ranadive describes in scholarly detail the IMF and World Bank activities, called respectively stabilization policies and structural adjustment policies. These so-called stabilization policies are created by the IMF and generally last one to five years. Structural adjustment policies (SAP) are organized by the World Bank and are longer term, ranging from three to ten years.13 Deshmukh-Ranadive states clearly that not only do these IMF and WB policies affect different classes of people but also they affect men and women differently, for the reason that “forces unleashed at a global level have repercussions that affect the lives of men and women at the micro level through macro policies.”14 She further writes that it is the household that serves as the buffer to absorb the shocks during any ‘adjustment’ period, and of course it is the women who bear the greatest burden, who suffer the greatest impact. The household is important because it is the “locus of the production of human capital in the wake of globalization.” She makes additional salient statements such as the fact that entire countries and cultures are being changed irrevocably by globalization. Also that the idea of export-led growth does not at all mean prosperity for Indian farmers. In India the majority of people are in agriculture, and depend upon it for their subsistence. If TNCs move in and command that cash crops replace the growing of food grains, it will surely lead to starvation of the indigenous people. At best it will cause their ‘agricultural displacement’ and migration to the cities in search of new ways to survive. After switching to cash crops, the local people no longer have money or goods to barter for acquiring such basic amenities as tea, salt, pulses (split peas and other legumes, which form their daily diet along with rice), wheat, rice, soap and kerosene for cooking. Kamla, one of the women interviewed in the book interviewed, complains bitterly that “the [Indian] government is increasingly indifferent to the plight of the poor. Despite so much wealth visibly in the hands of moneyed people, the poor are only getting poorer, more insecure and burdened with rewardless work.”15

The unemployment that results directly from globalization leads to corruption, drunkenness and criminality, all of which are increasing.16 Rents are raised continually, causing the poorest women to move to huts where there is not even water or any sanitation facilities. The structural adjustment programs of the World Bank have the effect of wiping out small-scale industries, which leads to more fighting and crime. Furthermore, the media propagates a pseudo-culture encouraging pornography, materialistic consumerism and violent behavior. Indigenous peoples are a special target of this everywhere, as cultural destruction is the first step towards modern corporate colonialism. For the people in agriculture, migration becomes a prime option for augmenting the family income, for repaying loans, and to have more money for food. Interestingly, thanks to some grassroot women’s organizations, several poor women have been able to find additional work locally.17

In Jamaica the people used to grow potatoes. But then, America started exporting cheaper potatoes and this drove the local Jamaican potato farmers out of business. This is precisely the goal – to drive the Jamaican farmer out of business and thus make the Jamaicans dependent on expensive imports from TNCs (transnational corporations) and MNCs (multinational corporations). The same thing happened to the indigenous Jamaican dairy industry and the banana industry. It happened all over the Caribbean in the mid-nineties.18 Those beautiful islands had no choice but to take loans from the IMF and World Bank and then forcibly agree to their demands, such as allowing imports from US and converting local small-scale farming to large cash crops for export only. Here again is globalization in action. We can also say, it is the greatest crime on earth, in action. For as stated before, these tactics of TNCs and MNCs bring about the immiseration and impoverishment and finally the slow death of millions of human beings!

The real tragedy of globalization with relation to agriculture is that the TNCs and MNCs involved alter the crops. They change the use of the land and they take over the small producers. Under the framework of globalization (or structural adjustment policy), impoverished human beings are referred to as ‘masses’, ‘labour’ or ‘human capital’. Nothing more. Human beings in this scenario are not accorded the basic right of dignity, nor are they considered for their basic existential value. The right to work, to employment for livable wages is a human right. If not provided, it is a human rights violation. Takeover by TNCs and MNCs leads to mass unemployment in the respective countries.19

Globalization and Slavery

Globalization has brought back slavery and caused it to become an international issue. There are twenty seven million slaves today around the world – and even in America.20 That means, they are kept in bondage, like prisoners, to work without salary and without hope of escape. Sometimes, like in certain African countries and even in India, they are kept in leg chains. What is responsible? Capitalism. Who is responsible? The very wealthiest men of this world are responsible. Slavery is a huge international business. Slaves help to make the rich people become super rich. When slaves wear out or become ill, they are put on the road – discarded. In previous decades or centuries, slavery meant one person legally owning another person after purchase. Today there is no such thing as legal ownership of slaves. Today, people get slaves using devious means and control them using violence. Hence today we can talk about slaveholders, not slaveowners.21 As Kevin Bales has stated in his excellent book, Disposable People , “Slavery is an obscenity. It is not just stealing someone’s labour; it is the theft of an entire life. It is more closely related to the concentration camp than to questions of bad working conditions.”

Bales points out the distinctions of slavery today compared to slavery in the past. In the past slavery was related to skin colour, race, tribe or religion. Today it has to do with none of these issues. Today it has to do with weakness, gullibility and deprivation. The deciding factor today is poverty and resulting desperation. In the past prostitutes earned money but had freedom to move here and there, to leave, to return to their homes. Today, many are slaves. Women are imported from Eastern European countries and Asian countries and are enslaved here in America. They are locked in their rooms, with no freedom to move, to go out, to escape. This is the new slavery. In olden times, slaves were costly. However, today population numbers have soared, poverty is everywhere, and thus slaves are cheap, disposable and easily replaced. Globalization is directly responsible. The IMF and World Bank with their structural adjustment policies have destroyed the closeness of the joint family system prevalent in third world countries, forced farmers to switch to cash crops for export, leaving them with nothing to eat, and sent cheap food to the cities, causing bankruptcy to millions of peasants. Bankruptcy in America means one thing. It means starting over financially. Bankruptcy in third world countries means slow starvation and death. In this condition, the people are easily picked up for slavery. So strong is the instinct for survival, they will prefer to live as a slave than to die. Due to globalization, there is poverty in the world like never before. Millions are impoverished. It means millions are ready to enter slavery. Women and children form a large percentage of those millions becoming new slaves every day. Let us see the differences between the new slavery and the old slavery in the chart below.

What are the kinds of slavery that we have today? There are three:

1. Chattel slavery: it means a person is born or sold into permanent servitude. The person’s children also will become slaves. This represents a smaller percentage of the total slaves.

2. The second kind of slavery is debt bondage: this is the most common kind of slavery today. A poor or starving man will ask a rich man for a loan, and as collateral he will give his son or daughter to the rich man to work as a slave until the debt is repaid. Usually the debt cannot be repaid – even if it is only Rs. 500. Poor people in India cannot accumulate such a huge sum. Hence it is called debt bondage. It is slavery of a horrible kind.

3. The third kind of slavery is contract slavery. Contracts are offered (again to very poor and desperate persons) guaranteeing them a particular job, usually far away in the city or often in another country like America or Kuwait or Japan – it could be anywhere. When the poor person arrives at his destination, however, he finds that he is given a completely different job, generally very menial, and violence is used to keep the person from protesting, moving outside or communicating with any outsiders regarding his plight. For women and small girls, even as young as 8 or 9 years old, they will most often become sex slaves. All these people are enslaved by violence and held against their will for the purpose of exploitation, and in the case of today’s globalization, for huge profits to wealthy capitalists. In America, police have sometimes found farm workers locked inside barracks and working under armed guards as field slaves.22 Likewise police have found enslaved Thai and Filipino women in brothels in New York and Los Angeles.

According to Human Rights Watch: Children’s Rights Project, in their book entitled The Small Hands of Slavery: Bonded Child Labour in India , India has the largest number of child slaves in the world. Estimates range from 60 million to 115 million.23 They work in stone quarries or in fields, or on the streets picking rags, or they are used as domestic servants. In all these jobs, they are working 14-16 hours a day. They never attend school and most remain illiterate for life. Often they are put into bondage (slavery) at the age of four or five. Some are forced by their parents to work, due to extreme poverty. However, it is estimated that more than 15 million children in India are virtual slaves. There are other organizations (Anti-Slavery International, United Press International and the United Nations) that put this number much higher – closer to thirty million. They are bonded labourers. It means, they are to work as slaves until they pay off a debt – generally a debt of one of their parents. The greatest majority of these child slaves work in agriculture. They tend cows and goats, pick tea leaves on the huge tea plantations, work in the sugar cane fields and other standard crops. The rest work making beedi (Indian cigarettes), silk (natural silk from mulberry bushes), silver jewellery, precious gemstones and diamonds, leather shoes, and of courses, carpets. Exquisite, beautiful carpets. On the still sadder side, child labor also includes working in prostitution and as domestic slaves. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986 designates a child as one who has not completed their fourteenth year of age. Bonded child labour is “the phenomenon of children working in conditions of servitude in order to pay off a debt.”24 However, capitalists and global capitalists know that bonded child labour, i.e. slaves, are cheap, convenient and dependable. One also needs to understand that as a direct result of IMF and World Bank Policies, due to their ‘structural adjustment policies’, due to their inane instructions to stop small local crops and just produce huge export crops, with the same applying to carpets, silk, etc., for this very reason the rate of poverty is sky-rocketing. And the direct result of sky-rocketing poverty is mammoth increase world wide in the number of slaves. Millions are in India. In 1996 the population of India was more than 900 million, making it the second largest country in the world in terms of population.25 Is there any worse exploitation today than of the children of India? If they even one time protest, if they even one time ask for a few more cents’ wages, they are beaten by hired thugs, often with the local police watching. Sometimes they die from the beatings. This response applies to both children as well as adult slaves in India. In some cases, NGO workers have found child slaves in leg shackles.26

Salem, in south India, is the heart of the silver industry. Thousands of children work 14-18 hour days creating intricate silver jewellery. Synthetic gemstones are also made in south India. The stones are made both for domestic consumption and for export. From the export of the “American diamond” alone, there is an annual revenue to the capitalist owner of 100 million rupees, which is equal to three million dollars.

The two large centres of the silk industry are Varanasi in the north and Kanchipuram in south India. Beautiful silk saris are woven. A normal silk sari purchased in Kanchipuram will cost about US $200 – it is more than the annual income of all the poor people, and it is even a large amount for the middle class housewife. In 1996-1997 Indian silk exports were expected to reach an all-time high of $300 million.27 And who is making that beautiful silk? Slaves. Leather used to be manufactured in wealthier first world countries. Now, as the cost of labour is low or nil in developing countries, leather manufacturing has shifted to the third world. Child slavery is vast, pernicious and long-standing. It is increasing by leaps and bounds, because it is required for globalization. The bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act was passed into law in 1976, but it has not at all been implemented.

“Shame upon such crimes! Shame upon us if we do not raise our voices against them!”
– Samuel Gompers, US labor activist, 1881

Globalization and the Sex Industry

Who are the tragic victims in the pornography business? It is women and young girls. Why do they go for this type of work? We may find if we study the facts that it is mainly for economic reasons that women go into this work. The need to survive is an overwhelming, dominating need in all women. However, in hundreds of thousands of cases, there are young 8, 10 and 12 year old innocent girls who are simply kidnapped, and if given a choice would rather die than go through the horrible process of starting life in a brothel. One cannot even begin to imagine their trauma and sufferings. In third world countries like India, Nepal and Thailand we have rampant prostitution. Where do all those prostitutes come from? Very few of them voluntarily become prostitutes. The vast majority are kidnapped as young girls from their villages. Their parents let them go because the ‘buyer’ of the girl pays money to the parents. So great is the poverty in some areas of the world that parents will sell their little girls for a small price – as that money will provide food for the rest of the family members for a few more weeks. Often the little girls and even the parents think that their daughters are going to a fine place and will lead a fine life. But, the girls are taken to filthy brothels in Bombay or Bangkok – where they are brutalized and violated in the worst possible ways, to prepare them for their new life and job as prostitute. They become slaves. Normally, they never escape from this new life. If they go to the police, usually in those countries the police will rape them and send them back to the brothel. So why are we telling this? Because somebody OWNS the brothel. That owner is a capitalist. It is all about private ownership and making huge money, huge profit. This is what drives some human beings to treat other human beings as worse than animals.

According to the book Rape for Profit , published by Human Rights Watch / Asia in 1995, more than a million women and children (girls as young as 7 and 8 years old) are kept in Indian brothels. Many of them are from Nepal and Bangladesh. These women and girls are not prostitutes in the traditional sense of being free to come and go, free to quit if they like. They are slaves. Many come without realizing at all what will happen to them. They are sold by their parents to intermediaries who bring them to the brothels. Once there, it is a living nightmare. They are gang-raped, beaten, starved, tortured in unspeakable ways until finally they ‘adjust’ and become compliant and obedient, which means they begin servicing more than 25 customers (men) per day. It is explained to the girls that they are not to go out. That they are in eternal debt to their bosses. It is always an amount that they can never repay. It is rare that a girl can miraculously escape the brothel and search for the police to help her. The police sometimes help her to return back to her home. Other times the police themselves begin raping her and/or return her to her brothel madam.

This is happening not only in India. It is a world-wide phenomenon. With the collapse of the eastern European countries and consequent impoverization and imminent starvation, many young girls succumb to promises of a beautiful carefree life and money in foreign lands. There are girls from China, Thailand, South Korea, Albania, Russia and Mexico all working as sex slaves in America.28 According to 1994 ECPAT statistics, the numbers of children in the sex industry are: 500,000 in Brazil, 400,000 in India, 200-85-,000 in Thailand, 100,000 in Taiwan, 200,000 in Nepal. UNICEF estimates there are 100-300,000 children involved in U.S.29

Part 2

Copyright The author 2011

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