FREE THROWS: Human Trafficking: Still a big problem

QUEZON CITY (MindaNews/15 August) — Fatima, a 13-year old girl from General Santos City, was reportedly trafficked to Saudi Arabia three months ago by a duly-licensed recruitment agency.

The recruitment agency landed her a job as a “maid” with a family in Saudi Arabia in April of this year.

Her employer turned out to be barbaric.

She was subjected to horrific physical beatings that included banging her head against the wall, pouring boiling water on her back, chaining her to a bed, and thrusting pointed objects into her genitals. All because, she reportedly was not able to measure up to her employer’s standards of housekeeping.

Whose fault is it that this girl was trafficked into brutal servitude in Saudi Arabia?

The “fault, dear Brutus, is,” (firstly) “in our stars”.

Policy wise, there are supposed to be rules that ban the deployment of girl househelps below the age of 23 especially to foreign lands.

Nonetheless, the recruitment agency was able to recruit the girl, ferry her to Saudi Arabia, and put her into the hands of her barbarous employer?

The people, then, who criminally participated in getting Fatima into the horrible situation are principally at fault at the local level.

Then, of course, the ones who inflicted those horrendous acts of cruelty on her must be sanctioned by Saudi Arabian authorities.

The problem is that our norms of civilized conduct may not apply to a country like Saudi Arabia that seems hardly capable – up to this very date – of getting the norms of democratic government into place.

What about the UN? The UN has its hands full with the war on terror in many places of the globe, it is well-nigh impossible to hope that crimes against the likes of a 13-year old unknown, like Fatima, would ever get its attention.

Anyway, the authorities of our country should bring Fatima’s plight to the attention of responsible UN agencies.

Essentially, however, the ball is in our hands. Poverty that consumes the energies of between 30 to 40 million of our people needs to be attended to with focus by the government.

The Center (Pimentel Center for Local Governance at the University of Makati) knows of no other cogent reason why Fatima ventured on her own juvenile mind or, perhaps, even on the prodding of her family to risk her inexperienced self with the unknown but to earn money to help her own kith and kin.

Hence, poverty and its terrible toll on human dignity needs priority attention by our authorities.

To this end, the people must also do their part. Electing people who know what their government jobs require, and demanding that they do their jobs cannot be left to the stars in the heavens.

We, the people, have to do part of the work needed to transform this nation. And the work must begin with ourselves.

[Note: as of early this month, Fatima escaped from her employers and was brought to Bahay Kalinga in the Philippine Embassy compound in Saudi Arabia].

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. of Cagayan de Oro City prefers to be called “Nene Pimentel.”)