Thursday, 7 August 2008

Household Slavery in Haiti

Wherever poverty, greed, corruption and government inaction coincide, people are traded as commodities - none more so than in Haiti where slavery takes on a quotidian form. Sometimes even modest aspirations -- to provide one's children with an education, for example -- can perpetuate slaving practices. In rural Haitian villages families are known to hand over one or more children to a ''courtier,'' or middleman. Although fear, shame, and regret pours out of the parents, the system in which unpaid child laborers are sent to middle-class homes as ''restaveks'' (Creole for ''rester avec,'' or stay with) is deeply entrenched in Haiti. Many of the children are physically and sexually abused. But with no jobs and no schools in the parents' calculus a question comes into focus: Maybe the middleman's promises of sending their children to school will prove true?

The custom reaches even further. Recently in Miami an ex-teacher was sentenced to 10-years in prison for the force labour of a Haitian minor. A Haitian herself, the case of Maude Paulin, has exposed a hitherto unseen network in human trafficking new to the United States.

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