Monday, June 11, 2012

Human Rights in Question: Today's News

Orange County, California police arrested founders of an Asia sex traffic ring this morning. The suspected members moved women from China to the U.S. promosing them a better life in America, but instead, brought them to residential brothels to work as sex slaves.

One woman, identified only as Soo, told CNN report Thelma Gutierrez that life as a sex slave is a nightmare. Soo was brought to America for better working opportunities, but found herself thrown into sex slavery in a massage parlor.

Soo, who is now free, said: “We are humans. We are not animals.”

More information on this story can be found on CNN.

Sex tourism is still prominant even in the 21st Century for many parts of the world, especially in the Middle East and Asia where women have virtually zero rights.

In Reluctant Bedfellows, for example, authors Meredith Ralston and Edna Keeble speak with numerous women in the Phillipines who were forced to work as prostitutes. Ralston and Keeble follow the history of prostitution in former military outpost Angeles City, the women and foreign men who live by the trade and the varied organizations attempting to deal with prostitution.

In the news today is also a story told by a 33-year-old Saudi woman named Manal al-Sharif who was taught at a young age in school that listening to music was sinful, along with driving, showing your face in public and not being escorted by a male guardian.

She has made global attention due to a Youtube video of her challenging the human rights community and the Saudi government by driving a car without permission and showing her face.

"All I did was ask for rights. I didn't attack anyone. I didn't harass anyone. I didn't oppose the system or the country or the authority. All I said is, 'Why can't I drive?' "

Police detained her for nine days without any charges. She wanted this to be the first step among human rights for women in the Middle East and encourages women to defy the banned laws against them.

"But the campaign isn't really about driving, she said. Driving, in one sense, is a stand-in for other issues. Women in Saudi Arabia won't be allowed to vote or hold public office until 2015. They can't get married, leave the country, go to school or open bank accounts without permission from a male guardian, who usually is the father or husband. Much of public life is segregated by gender." (CNN)

The divorced woman of a six-year-old has started a driving campaign called Women2Drive, offering more than just guidance for women and encouragement to drive. The group is encouraging Saudi women to go out and drive on June 17th, but the cause is more about human rights than the drive. Because of the uproar in the country, however, al-Sharif will not be participating in the drive.

"That would endanger my family, not only me."

She knows that change will not occur in Saudi Arabia overnight, but is hopeful that women will stand up for themselves, as she did when she lost her job last month in order to speak at the Human Rights Conference in Norway. She encourages women to take the right steps to a better future for themselves.

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