2nd Session, 41st Parliament,

Volume 149, Issue 17

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Universal Children’s Day

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, on November 19 the international community commemorated Universal Children’s Day. My personal thoughts and prayers went out to the girls of Kolkata’s red-light district, whom I visited a few short months ago. I travelled to Kolkata, India, with Petra Bosma and Jamie McIntosh of International Justice Mission Canada, which is a human rights organization that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression.

When we drove through one red-light district, I was shocked by the number of girls and women I saw. There were thousands of women and girls. There were women of all ages in all kinds of dress. I locked eyes with a woman who looked my age. We stared into each other’s eyes. I am sure my eyes were asking why, at her age, she was standing in line to be traded by pimps. The woman of my age stared back at me with an angry glare, and I did not understand why she was mad at me. As we were ending our drive into the district, I saw a young Nepali girl who was no older than 12. Her eyes conveyed the absolute betrayal she felt. Before I could do or say anything, she fled.

When we returned to the hotel, I proceeded to my room and just sat in bed staring at the wall. I felt dirty, overwhelmed and dejected. The more I thought about it, the more I realized why the woman and girl I had come across had looked at me with such anger and betrayal. It occurred to me that they must have felt betrayed because they felt that politicians and leaders alike failed them, and rightfully so. They understand that we have the power to help them, but we choose not to exercise it. Instead, we allow this to continue to happen to them.

The woman who appeared to be my age, who gave me an angry glare, was indeed mad at me because she thought I was judging her. In truth, I had been judging her. I felt a deep regret for doing so. I do not walk in her shoes. I do not face her challenges, and I do not understand her circumstances.

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One very important lesson I learned while in Calcutta, India, was that women and children who are victims of human trafficking are not interested in our pity or our charity. What they seek is not dependence but rather dignity.

Honourable senators, I ask that you join me in this fight against human trafficking and help the 2 million children who are stripped of their innocence and dignity each and every day. Together, we can help women and children around the world access the most basic and fundamental human rights.

During this international children’s rights week, let us remember that every child has a right, and we have to protect them.

 

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