Last week I heard about boys and girls, as young as five years old who are offered for sex in Thailand. I’m not sure who made me more angry, those selling or those willing to buy.
Probably those buying. Why? Sexual exploitation of children exists everywhere in the world because people, mainly men, want it. And where there is demand there is always supply.
I just can’t comprehend why and how people willingly and knowingly exploit others for any reason at all but especially for sex and with especially children. But millions do. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) over $90 billion of profit each year is generated through sexual exploitation. That’s a lot of consumers.
In my view, such cruelty and willingness to derive pleasure from the misery of others, stems not from material poverty but rather from a poverty of values. Is it possible that we have become so accustomed to putting ourselves first and to using others that it is just a small step on to abuse them? I wonder how we have become so morally bankrupt and what we can do about it.
It seems to me that any actions we take to end slavery will have limited impact without a reformation of values. This was the battleground of the first abolitionists. A renewed appreciation of the dignity and value of all human life motivated them. Over time, a long, long time, the idea of buying and selling people as property became deeply abhorrent to society. I think it’s time we re-kindled our outrage and intolerance for all forms of slavery but especially exploitative sex whose consumers can be found in every county and every city and whose appetite drives an insatiable demand for the supply of children.
We have to address the demand side of the equation. It’s a big ask, but it has been done before. But we can only win by reforming the values which shape our society. We must cultivate a disdain for exploitative consumption. How? I believe the battle to end slavery begins in our hearts and springs from a renewed desire to serve rather than use others. It’s a battle which must be won in our homes, our schools, workplaces and parliaments.
That’s why I’m part of the Freedom Fund, the world’s first private donor fund dedicated to ending slavery. We’re working with communities not just to release and rehabilitate those who are enslaved but also to shape the attitudes and values of their communities to help them combat exploitation. This grass roots and integrated approach is one of the reasons why Legatum, as a founding investor is so excited about the potential impact of the Freedom Fund. I hope you’ll join us.