London, UK. Police have released three women being held in conditions described as "horrific" for three decades by an elderly couple in their late sixties, who after arrest were released on bail. Similar cases revealed in Austria (Natascha Kampusch) and in Cleveland, Ohio, raise the question, how many other victims are there? A lot, it would seem.
The stories of Natascha Kampusch and the triple kidnapping in Cleveland, Ohio, are well known. In the former, the ten-year-old was taken from the street as she walked from home to school on March 2 1998 by Wolfgang Priklopil, who kept her captive in a soundproofed cell under his garage until she managed to run off and escape on August 23, 2006, at eighteen years of age. Her adolescence had been stolen from her. Priklopil committed suicide immediately afterwards.
In the second case, Ariel Castro kept three American women and a child (Amanda Berry and her daughter, Georgina de Jesus and Michelle Knight) in deplorable conditions in his house in Cleveland, Ohio, from when they were seized between 2002 and 2004 and their release on May 6, 2013. Castro hanged himself in his cell a month after his arrest and detention.
But these are no isolated incidents - there are many, many other cases, many of which are unsolved. In the United Kingdom, statistics reveal that dozens of children are reported missing every day. According to the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children, every year eight million children go missing worldwide, of which two million find themselves embroiled in the horror of sexual exploitation or slavery.
The article published in this column on November 12 about the plight of the Vidomègon children in West Africa (*) is just one of thousands of stories of exploitation of minors and human trafficking. The child pornography industry is a multi-billion-dollar business in which photographs are taken of children, some months old, engaged in explicit sexual activities with adults and these images (or videos) are then sold over the Internet to "customers" whose viewing of these images comes at the expense of defenseless victims.
Not all victims are children. Adults are also victims of human trafficking and kidnapping, a trade which renders around 32 billion USD a year for the monsters engaged in it, who make their money by selling their captives into sexual exploitation rings, or for harvesting of organs, tissues, ova removal or surrogacy. The International Labor Organization estimates that 2.4 million people worldwide are engaged in forced labor. Most victims are women, most of the criminals are men... Conviction rates are around or below 1.5 per 100,000 people, a rate of 0.0015 per cent.
How true are the stories of women being approached by a man in the street, being given something to read, then waking up in a bath full of ice with their kidneys removed?
There are countless other horrific tales of abuse carried out not by kidnappers, but by family members, even spouses. We are talking about acid throwing, the ironing of breasts, the burning of brides, date rape, marital rape, domestic violence, dowry killings, honor killings, female genital mutilation, female infanticide (killing a baby because it is a girl), foot binding, genocidal rape in theatres of conflict...
While the victims in all these cases represent a small percentage of humankind, surely it is the duty of the rest of us to network and clean out this filth which infests our planet. If a basic human right is the inviolability of the person, and that includes the publication of images without consent or before the age of consent, then it is about time serious steps were taken to address the issue because what I have described here is more a vision of Hell than planet Earth. And it is the tip of the iceberg.