The Lindsay Lohan Chronicles

Lindsay Lohan in West Bengal. Copyright: British Broadcasting Corporation, 2010

Lindsay Lohan in West Bengal. Copyright: British Broadcasting Corporation, 2010

For you, the gentle reader, I plumb the depths of the internet looking for content to inform, entertain, and perhaps piss off the folks expecting to read about human rights.  Well, today I have to thank Lindsay Lohan for making this arduous task that much easier for me.  Yes, for some reason the venerable British Broadcasting Corporation chose the esteemed actress and socialite (is there such a thing as an esteemed socialite?) to do a documentary on child trafficking in India.

I’m actually serious– this is not an April Fool’s Day joke.  It is actually true.  Lindsay Lohan has done a documentary of child trafficking in India.  See the cringe-inducing one minute preview above.

Despite the possibly dodgy decision by the BBC to use Ms Lohan in this documentary, I wonder if it is a blessing in disguise.  People who are unfamiliar with child trafficking as a human rights issue, but are familiar with the work of Lindsay Lohan might be educated on the issue.

Child trafficking in India is  at epidemic levels despite efforts to combat it.  Many (upwards of 40%) of the children trafficked into India are from Nepal.  There is also cult-like group in the Indian state of Karnataka who worship the goddess Yellamma and send their children (initiated as devadasi) who are trafficked to other parts of India supposedly as part of their devotion to this goddess.  It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of girls are trafficked for prostitution.  Their lives are short and brutal, many suffer from sexually transmitted diseases.  In places like Mumbai, children as young as nine are sold at auctions reminiscent of slavery.  The testimony of Anita, a young Nepalese girl trapped in a life of prostitution is worth a read.  Maybe if even one of these girls benefit from Lindsay Lohan’s documentary, then perhaps it will be worth it.

Exposing the Truth is Dangerous

Since writing Los Demonios del Edén — a book that exposed child prostitution and trafficking in Cancun, Mexico — Lydia Cacho has been under constant harrasment and intimidation. In 2005, she was taken from the women’s shelter she runs and transported more than 900 miles across Mexico at gunpoint to a jail in Puebla, Mexico. After her release, audio tapes surfaced showing that then Puebla Gov. Mario Marín was involved in her mistreatment. Given Lydia’s accomplishments as human rights activist and determination under pressure, Amnesty International awarded her the Ginetta Sagan Human Rights Award in 2007.

This video explains more about Lydia Cacho’s intimidation in 2005:

In the past few weeks, witnesses have seen an armed man watching and photograhping Lydia in her car, home and office. As her harassment continues, Amnesty International also continues its work to fight for Lydia and has issued an Urgent Action on her behalf.

Mexico is one of the most dangerous places for journalists in the world. Between 2000 and 2009 50 registrered journalists have been killed and 2 more have been killed in May 2009 alone. Lydia explains the dangers of being a journalist in Mexico here:

What will need to happen for more protection for journalists in Mexico? I think that if more people took notice of Lydia Cacho and the violence and initmidation journalists face in Mexico and Central America, than the governments would be forced to enact more protective measures and enforce them.

What the UDHR Means to Me

The United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), proposed by Eleanor Roosevelt and adopted by the United Nations in 1948 established 30 articles of universal Human Rights. This document establishes and protects the framework for civilized and respectful interaction between all people and nations no matter what their political, religious or cultural beliefs. Over 190 nations have ratified this declaration; and yet surveys show that more people can name 3 members of the Homer Simpson TV Cartoon family than they can name three of their basic human rights. You can’t defend what you do not know.

At a time when we see women being stoned to death, child executions, people starving in the Eastern Sudan, children being stolen from their families and made into child-soldiers or prostitutes, prisoners being water-boarded, millions of people starving and dying of AIDS each year – we have to ask: what can human rights education do? My answer is everything. It’s where it all begins.

A friend once told me a story I will never forget. In the early 1940’s there was a young black boy in the Deep South, a sharecropper’s son. He went to school in a one-room, tattered schoolhouse. One morning, sitting by himself, he opened a third-hand, torn Civics text book. He read a page – The United States Bill of Rights. He read it again. He looked around and what he saw were white only schools, white only restrooms, and “sit on the back of the bus”. It didn’t make sense. And at that single moment, education, as it does for all of us, made that young Black boy more aware – and he decided to do something about it. His name was Martin Luther King Jr., and the rest is history.

Nelson Mandela said, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can learn to love.”

Human rights violations know no borders. From child soldiers in the Congo, ethnic cleansing in Darfur, to the rise in human trafficking right here in the US, it is easy to see that the whole world needs to change.

By knowing all 30 Articles of the UDHR we can be equipped with the knowledge to fight against any injustice anywhere in the world. On this 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration, with all the turmoil that currently exists in the world, it has become more important than ever for people to know their rights, to pass them onto others, and to defend them relentlessly.

The solution to global issues such as poverty, famine, war and political unrest is encompassed by the UDHR, and human rights education is the first step in resolving these issues at a grassroots level.

I hope to see the day when human rights education becomes a mandatory part of every middle school curriculum on every continent across the world, so that every man, woman and child knows and can defend their God-given rights.