Last week, the international media focused its attention on a modern-day slavery story that first gained attention in 2012 when Ilyas and Tallat Ashar, a British-Pakistani millionaire couple were accused of charges of trafficking, rape, abuse and fraud. They were subsequently found guilty and jailed in 2013. In 2000, Ilyas Ashar now 86, and his wife Tallat Ashar 69, trafficked a deaf and mute Pakistani girl presumed to be age 10 at the time, into the UK to “work” as a domestic help. Apparently, the girl was told her parents had died and arrived in the UK in 2000 with a passport that stated she was 19 years old, and was allowed into Britain on the condition that she did not apply for public money. She was kept in the couples’ cellar in their home in Eccles, Salford, in inhumane conditions, exploited, forced to work, beaten and raped regularly. Furthermore, the couple claimed benefits for the girl from the state.
Now, the court calculated the Ashars have to pay the victim £101,300 ($160,000). This is the amount that she would have been paid if she had earned the minimum wage working for the couple for 12 hours a day, every day since 2003 except for ten days off.
They are also required to pay back £42,000 ($67,000) in benefits to the state that they wrongfully claimed for the girl.
To say the least, I was repulsed by this news. I was not only appalled by the frivolous way in which the news has been handled by the media, particularly in the UK, but by the court’s concession to pay the victim £100,000. £100,000!! This girl lost almost ten years of her life enduring the most horrific forms of abuse. Nothing we do now can change what happened, and money cannot make up for all her suffering. But calculating £100,000 based on minimum-wage figures, considering that the girl was a minor throughout most of that time, over-working, raped, beaten, abused and that the Ashars are MILLIONAIRES, this amount doesn’t even come close to what the girl should have received in compensation. In addition, Ilyas Ashar received 16 years in prison and his wife 5. I am no supporter of the death penalty, but I certainly think the couple deserves a life sentence.
This is just another case of modern-day slavery in the world we live in. Women are the most vulnerable victims of sex trafficking in the world. This is an issue that I believe so-called “developed” nations as Britain, have greatly failed to address although they have pledged to tackle human trafficking. Unfortunately in many cases the victims are being trafficked to the “developed” world. I am still wondering how it is possible that the girl was not discovered sooner, particularly since the couple was claiming social benefits from the state on her behalf. How was she never checked on? Was just her signature sufficient? The girl was only discovered because the Ashars’ home was raided on money laundering charges. There are serious faults with the British welfare and justice systems.
On the Pakistani side questions also remained unanswered. Was the victim sold by her family to this couple? Was she just snatched and taken away? What are Pakistani authorities doing to prevent the trafficking of young girls? I failed to find any news that answered any of these questions.
In light of the recent Nobel Peace Prize awarded to a young Pakistani girl, (read my fellow blogger danibicknell’s post on this), we should give priority to the issue of human and sex trafficking, since it is one of the greatest challenges that many young girls face around the world. Furthermore, the issue of education and protection for trafficked victims is also an important debate to have. Should the “host” country take responsibility for the education and reinsertion of trafficked victims into society? UNODC has a Victim’s Trust Fund to aid NGOs, governments and civil society organizations to help victims of trafficking. Britain takes responsibility for its child trafficking victims, and it has taken responsibility for the education and reinsertion of the Pakistani girl in this story. According to equalitynow.org, there are at least 20.9 million adults and children who are bought and sold worldwide into commercial sexual servitude, forced labor and bonded labor- of these, women and girls make up 98% of victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation. These figures are only estimates, since the scope of the problem is beyond measurement. Most victims of trafficking remain in the dark, voiceless and helpless. In the 21st century we are dealing with serious issues of trafficking and slavery, and much work needs to be done in order to stop it.
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