Peace Prize recipient Kailash Satyarthi has long campaigned against child labor

During the three decades he has worked to free thousands of children laboring in dank mines and factories throughout India, Kailash Satyarthi has been shoved, kicked, threatened with deadly weapons and beaten numerous times.

His family hoped that he would cut back on child-trafficking raids when he turned 60, but just last month he directed the rescue of 23 children from a tiny basement factory in New Delhi. On Friday, the longtime advocate was sitting behind a desk at his small office in the capital when he learned from a journalist’s telephone call that he had won the Nobel Peace Prize. Satyarthi, the first Indian-born recipient of the honor, will share the award with Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani who became an education activist after the Taliban shot her on her way to school.

Satyarthi said it was a “great honor” and a “happy moment” for India, as well as for the children he had long worked to save. In a brief interview, he called for the “globalization of human compassion.”

“I am quite hopeful that this will help in giving greater visibility to the cause of children who are the most neglected and most deprived, and that this will also inspire the individuals, activists, governments, business houses and [corporations] to work hand-in-hand to fight it out,” he said. “The recognition of this issue will help in mobilizing bigger support for the cause.”

News of the award set off a raucous celebration at Satyarthi’s Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement) office and a ripple of national pride throughout India.

The joy was tempered by critics who said they resented the Nobel Prize committee lumping India’s honoree with Pakistan’s, as if the adversarial nations were parties in an arranged marriage. Yousafzai later said that she and Satyarthi had spoken by phone and agreed that they would invite their respective prime ministers to the awards ceremony in Oslo.

Experts predicted that Satyarthi’s long-shot honor — he was chosen over favorites including Pope Francis — would probably focus attention not on geopolitical affairs but India’s still-endemic problem of child labor.

In India, children are not allowed to work in industrial jobs or other hazardous fields, but an estimated 50 million still toil in industries that make fireworks, carpets, bangles and bricks. A law banning all labor for children under 14 is still languishing in Parliament. Denizens of India’s rising middle class have been known to hire underage nannies or domestic servants.

“Indians have accepted these practices over the years, but we hope that this prize will prick their conscience, too,” said Swami Agnivesh, chairman of the Bonded Labor Liberation Front and an early mentor of Satyarthi’s.

Satyarthi is an iconoclast, fighting against widespread social tolerance for child labor in India, where many argue that the children would die of hunger if they did not have jobs. He insisted that the children he rescued attend school even as other charities were giving after-school classes for laborers, in a tacit approval of the system.

“His philosophy is that every child should be in school notwithstanding his economic background. He has rejected the theory that poverty drives child labor,” said Bupinder Zutshi, who co-authored the book “Globalization, Development and Child Rights” with Satyarthi in 2006.

Growing up in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, Satyarthi has said that he became aware of India’s socially stratified society at age 6, when he noticed a cobbler’s son working every day as he was on his way to school. He asked the cobbler why the son wasn’t in class, and the man told him that he and his son had been born solely to work, Satyarthi recalled in a 2004 interview with The Washington Post.

“The seed was sown that very day,” Satyarthi said.

Satyarthi was born a Brahmin, the highest caste in India’s hierarchical system. In a society in which family names often designate caste, he gave up his true name early on, according to his daughter, Asmita, 29, a business student. He adopted the more neutral Kailash Satyarthi instead, and gave her only one name.

He gave up an engineering career for activism in his 20s and founded Bachpan Bachao Andolan in 1983. He rose to prominence in the 1990s, when he would swoop down on far-flung villages in eastern India — known as the country’s carpet-making belt – for surprise raids on dimly lit basements where children squatted on the floor, working on looms. The children lived with the loom owners and worked for hours for small payments that were sent home to their parents. The rescues, while high-profile and hyped by the local media, were not always successful. Sometimes the poverty-stricken parents preferred their children to be working than in school.

During the 1990s, Satyarthi was instrumental in convincing many European countries to boycott Indian carpets made with child labor. He developed a self-certification label for South Asian carpets headed for export that said they were made without of child labor. In 1994, the certification trademark was called Rugmark; it is now GoodWeave International.

Satyarthi he has received numerous international honors over the years, including the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. Yet in India he has received far fewer laurels. He was also accused by many nationalists and others of working against Indian interests, especially in the essential export industry, and of showing the country in a poor light.

“It’s a big moment for us,” said his wife, Sumedha Kailash, 59, who runs a rehabilitation center for rescued children in Jaipur. The couple’s son, Bhuwan Ribhu, 35, a lawyer, also works for the nonprofit center. Its narrow halls are often crowded with anguished parents clutching photos of their missing children. But on Friday, they were filled with jubilant supporters passing out sweets.

Jalees Andrabi contributed to this report.


I Fight Human Trafficking


Plight of Child Grooms

Child Grooms

Mexico: Nearly 500 Children Held as Sex Slaves

mama rosa.jpg

Rosa del Carmen Verduzco,”Mama Rosa,” is a noted children rights activist whose group home was often visited by politicians.

Federal and state police officers raided a group home Tuesday in the western state of Michoacan and rescued 458 children who were forced to beg for money and suffered sexual abuse while being against their will in filthy conditions, Mexico’s top prosecutor said.

Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said police also rescued 138 adults from “La Gran Familia” (The Great Family) group home in the city of Zamora.

The residents were kept in deplorable conditions, fed rotten food and made to sleep on the floor among rats, ticks and fleas and many of them were never allowed to leave the premises, Murillo Karam said at a news conference attended by top federal investigators and Michoacan Gov. Salvador Jara.

“I’m in utter dismay because we weren’t expecting the conditions we found at the group home,” Jara said.

Police detained the home’s owner, Rosa del Carmen Verduzco, and eight workers for questioning, Murillo Karam said.

Verduzco, known in Zamora as “Mama Rosa” or “La Jefa” is a noted local children rights activist whose group home was often visited by politicians. Local media on Wednesday published several photographs of her with former President Vicente Fox and his wife, former Michoacan Gov. Leonel Godoy and other officials.

The investigation began after five parents filed complaints last year with authorities because they weren’t allowed to see their children at the home, Jara said.

One of the parents was a woman who grew up and gave birth to two children at Great Family, which has been open for 40 years. She was allowed to leave when she was 31-years-old but Verduzco kept the two children, who had been registered under her name, said Tomas Ceron, head of the Criminal Research Agency at the Attorney General’s Office.

The mother of one of the boys held said Wednesday she was only allowed to see her child three times a year and that the home’s owner demanded $2,800 to release him.

Veronica Gamina told The Associated Press by telephone that four years ago she took her then 9-year-old boy to The Great Family group home in the city of Zamora because she had to work and couldn’t take care of him.

But when she returned to reclaim her now 13-year-old boy, “they told me to write letters explaining why I wanted him back, then they asked me for 37,000 pesos ($2,800 USD) but I make 800 pesos ($60) a week and couldn’t get the money together,” Gamina said. She spoke from outside the home, which was being guarded by police, and where she said about 70 parents had gathered.

Gamina, a 28-year-old sandwich shop worker, said she went to authorities after hearing about conditions at the home from someone who escaped.

Mexico’s federal Attorney General’s Office said the children remained in the home Wednesday while authorities made sure they were being fed and looked for places to transfer them. The youngsters were also being checked by doctors.

Nigeria: Boko Haram Threatens to Sell Over 200 Kidnapped Schoolgirls

Muslim women attend a demonstration calling on the government to increase efforts to rescue the 276 missing kidnapped school girls of a government secondary school Chibok, in Lagos, Nigeria, May 5, 2014.

Muslim women attend a demonstration calling on the government to increase efforts to rescue the 276 missing kidnapped school girls of a government secondary school Chibok, in Lagos, Nigeria, May 5, 2014.

The Islamist militant group Boko Haram on Monday claimed responsibility for kidnapping more than 200 schoolgirls in northeast Nigeria last month and threatened to sell them, while protesters continued to press the government to rescue them.  

“I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah,” Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said in the video, according to the French news agency AFP.

Boko Haram on April 14 stormed an all-girls secondary school in the village of Chibok, in Borno state, then packed the teenagers onto trucks and disappeared into a remote area along the border with Cameroon.

The militants kidnapped more than 300 teens, Nigerian police sources previously had indicated. Of those, 53 reportedly escaped and 276 still are captive. An intermediary for Boko Haram said two of the captives have died of snakebites and 20 are ill, the Associated Press reported on Monday.  

The teens’ abductions have embarrassed the government and threaten to overshadow its first hosting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) for Africa. The three-day gathering is scheduled to open on Wednesday.

Nigerian officials had hoped the event would highlight their country’s potential as an investment destination since it became Africa’s biggest economy after a GDP recalculation in March.

Protest leader arrested
On Sunday, authorities arrested a leader of a protest staged last week in Abuja that had called on them to do more to find the girls. The arrest has further fuelled outrage against the security forces.

Naomi Mutah Nyadar was picked up by police after she and other demonstrators met with President Goodluck Jonathan’s wife, Patience, concerning the girls.
Nyadar was taken to Asokoro police station, near the presidential villa, said fellow protester Lawan Abana, whose two nieces are among the abductees.

Police were not immediately available to comment on the incident, but a presidential source said Nyadar had been detained because she had falsely claimed to be the mother of a missing girls. Abana denied making the claim.
In a statement, Patience Jonathan denied local media reports that she had ordered Nyadar’s arrest, the state-owned News Agency of Nigeria said.
She also urged protesters in Abuja to go home.
“You are playing games. Don’t use school children and women for demonstrations again. Keep it to Borno, let it end there,” the agency quoted her as saying.

Demonstrations continuing
More protests were planned for Monday.  These could become a major headache for the government if they continue during the WEF event, where security arrangements will involve some 6,000 army troops.

On Sunday, Nigeria’s president said the government was doing everything possible to rescue the girls but admitted he didn’t know where they were.
“Let me reassure the parents and guardians that we will get their daughters out,” President Goodluck Jonathan said.   

Unconfirmed reports say some of the girls have been “married” to their captors, while others allegedly have been moved across the border into Cameroon and Chad.

Boko Haram, now considered the main security threat to Africa’s leading energy producer, is growing bolder and extending its reach. The kidnapping occurred on the same day as a bomb blast, also blamed on Boko Haram, that killed 75 people on the edge of Abuja and marked the first attack on the capital in two years.

The militants, who say they are fighting to reinstate a mediaeval Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria, repeated that bomb attack more than two weeks later in almost exactly the same spot, killing 19 people and wounding 34 in the suburb of Nyanya.

Man Convicted of Raping 3-Year-Old Daughter Dodges Jail Because He “Will Not Fare Well”

by  Ashley Alman

A Delaware man convicted of raping his three-year-old daughter only faced probation after a state Superior Court judge ruled he “will not fare well” in prison.

In her decision, Judge Jan Jurden suggested Robert H. Richards IV would benefit more from treatment. Richards, who was charged with fourth-degree rape in 2009, is an unemployed heir living off his trust fund. The light sentence has only became public as the result of a subsequent lawsuit filed by his ex-wife, which charges that he penetrated his daughter with his fingers while masturbating, and subsequently assaulted his son as well.

Richards is the great grandson of du Pont family patriarch Irenee du Pont, a chemical baron.

According to the lawsuit filed by Richards’ ex-wife, he admitted to assaulting his infant son in addition to his daughter between 2005 and 2007. Richards was initially indicted on two counts of second-degree child rape, felonies that translate to a 10-year mandatory jail sentence per count. He was released on $60,000 bail while awaiting his charges.

Richards hired one of the state’s top law firms and was offered a plea deal of one count of fourth-degree rape charges — which carries no mandatory minimum prison sentencing. He accepted, and admitted to the assault.

In her sentence, Jurden said he would benefit from participating in a sex offenders rehabilitation program rather than serving prison time.

Delaware Public Defender Brendan J. O’Neill told The News Journal that it was “extremely rare” for an individual to fare well in prison. “Prison is to punish, to segregate the offender from society, and the notion that prison serves people well hasn’t proven to be true in most circumstances,” he said, adding that the light sentence for the member of the one percent raised questions about “how a person with great wealth may be treated by the system.” (Though perhaps it provides more answers than questions.)

According to the The News Journal, several attorneys claimed treatment over jail time was a deal more typically granted to drug addicts, not sex offenders.

Kendall Marlowe, executive director of the National Association for Counsel for Children, told The News Journal that sex offenders are jailed for the safety of the children they threaten.

“Child protection laws are there to safeguard children, and adults who knowingly harm children should be punished,” she said. “Our prisons should be more rehabilitative environments, but the prison system’s inadequacies are not a justification for letting a child molester off the hook.”

News of the lenient sentence for the confessed rapist comes as a new book, Thomas Piketty’s Capitalism In The 21st Century, has put new focus on the distorting role of inheritance in the free market economy.

Hawaii: Cops Can’t Have Sex with Prostitutes Anymore

By OSKAR GARCIA Associated Press

A key Hawaii lawmaker considering an anti-prostitution bill says he and Honolulu police have agreed to get rid of a longtime exemption that allowed officers to have sex with prostitutes.

State Sen. Clayton Hee, head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he and police agreed at a meeting that the exemption ran contrary to popular opinion.

Honolulu police said during the meeting that they’re OK with making it expressly illegal for officers to have sex with prostitutes, as long as undercover officers can still say they’ll have sex so they can make arrests.

Honolulu police spokeswoman Teresa Bell told The Associated Press that officers have never been allowed to have sex with prostitutes under departmental rules, so making it illegal won’t change how officers operate.

“That’s exactly what we wanted and how we’ve been conducting our investigations — with the verbal offer,” Bell said.

Bell said Hee met with officers who submitted written and oral testimony to a House committee earlier in the legislative session.

The bill passed the House without a clause that would have made sex with prostitutes illegal for officers after police lobbied to have the language removed, arguing it would inhibit undercover investigations by giving criminals knowledge of what police can and cannot do.

At a Senate hearing last week, lawmakers and members of the public expressed outrage at the exemption after the AP reported on police officers’ lobbying to keep it unchanged. Hee vowed at the hearing to make the practice illegal.

Hee said the version of the bill that moves through his committee Friday will remove sexual penetration from the police exemption from prostitution laws, leaving police with the ability to solicit sex in the course of an investigation.

“I suppose that in retrospect the police probably feel somewhat embarrassed about this whole situation,” Hee said. “But, thankfully, the issue has been brought to light and the behavior has been addressed.

“The police support the idea that sexual penetration shall not be an exempt permitted behavior by the police in making arrests on prostitutes,” Hee said. “They agree this tool is not an appropriate tool for their toolbox.”

Officers who have sex with prostitutes are subject to internal investigation and, on a case-by-case basis, the possibility of being fired or suspended, Bell said. But Bell said the department did not know of any cases in recent memory in which an officer was disciplined for having sexual contact with a prostitute.

Bell said the department thought the clause they pushed to be removed from the bill was too vague.

Hawaii’s current anti-prostitution law includes the exemption: “This section shall not apply to any member of a police department, a sheriff, or a law enforcement officer acting in the course and scope of duties.”

The clause that was removed reads, “unless the action includes sexual penetration or sadomasochistic abuse.”

Bell said the department is dedicated to working with integrity, respect and fairness and didn’t want the ability to have sex with prostitutes.

“That’s not something that we wanted anyway; that was just there,” Bell said. “The only thing that we had a problem with was the verbal part.”

Kathryn Xian, director of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, said she was surprised police agreed to changing the law.

“In all of the versions of the language, never did it exclude their ability to solicit verbally,” said Xian, a candidate for Congress who drafted the language changing the exemption.