Sunday, November 28, 2010

Another Interruption: Public Service Announcement

I had been planning to post another story of when the kids were little, but as I was reading through the New York Times online today, I came across Nicholas D. Kristof's op-ed column entitled "A Woman. A Slave. A Prostitute." In the article Kristof describes the story of Yumi Li, a young woman from China, who paid smugglers $50,000 to bring her to the US. Yumi is educated; she has a college education. She thought that she was coming to an accounting job in the US, but instead she was forced to work for three years as a sex slave in Manhattan, NYC.

The story is here for those who are interested:

I decided to post about this because over the course of my two decades among the Chinese-American community, I met a number of women who had used "snake heads" or people smugglers to come to the US. All of them had been in terror of being sold into sex slavery because they either personally knew women who had been sold as sex slaves or they knew people who knew women sold into the sex trade. Most of these women were willing to pay a premium to the smugglers of $25,000 to $35,000 (US dollars) to ensure that they would escape that fate. In addition, they usually worked out elaborate arrangements with male relatives or friends both in the US and China to be sure that the "snake heads" kept their part of the bargain.

This is a big problem of which most of us mainstream Americans (of all races) are not aware. And as the Congress takes up issues like illegal immigration, we need to keep these things in our collective consciousness in order to make good choices. Unfortunately, there is a market in America for women sex slaves. And also unfortunately, Chinese society has terrible income disparity. (See Accepting Authoritarianism: State-Society Relations in China's Reform Era by Dr. Teresa Wright for more on the income disparity problem.) Women are not privileged in Chinese families because they cannot carry on the family name. If a family is struggling, the young women are more apt to be sent abroad to work because it does not matter in the family ancestral hall if they are lost, and because girls tend to be more responsible than the spoiled boys of the one-child era. Despite their unprivileged position in the family, women do send money back to their struggling relatives in China.

I don't have a ready answer to this problem, but I agree with Kristof that it needs to be brought to the light of day and into public discussions on immigration here in America.

1 comment:

Cloudia said...

Life and people are tougher than we remember in our middle class lives, T

Aloha from Hawaii

Comfort Spiral