By TORREY HART ———-
For the second consecutive year, the U.S. Department of State has classified Yemen as a Special Case as part of its efforts to combat child labor and sex trafficking.
Though data on human trafficking has become hard to find since March 2015, when the Houthi Supreme Revolutionary Committee seized large portions of Yemen, it was clear as of the State Department announcement in June that the trafficking crisis remains salient.
“We need to mobilize people and make them understand that the human suffering associated with these situations is absolutely unbearable,” U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said at a U.N. event Tuesday. “The criminal nature of those handling these activities is absolutely unacceptable in the modern world.”
With the ongoing civil war dividing Yemen, more children are being recruited to serve in the military – a direct violation of a 1991 Yemeni law that prohibits the use of soldiers under the age of 18, and of the U.N.’s 2014 action plan to reduce the use of child soldiers.
Reportedly, boys as young as 10 years old have served. The use of child soldiers cannot be attributed to only one party; in addition to government forces, the Houthi-Saleh rebel forces which control Northern Yemen, Islamist al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula and tribal forces have all been observed to employ children as armed fighters.
“The Houthi militia … relies on human resources for its armed operations, so children are an easy catch, because they can be persuaded and manipulated with ease,” Arab Initiative for Education and Development President Wissam Basendwa told pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Aswat last week.
The use of child soldiers is by no means native to Yemen — tens of thousands of young men and women have been used as members of armed groups worldwide over the past decade.
The bulk of Yemen’s trafficking stems from being a place of origin, rather than transit or destination, for those subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. However, it does serve as a point of transit to the Gulf for migrants and refugees from the Horn of Africa.
Before the Revolutionary Committee seized enough of the country to constitute a governmental overthrow, Yemen had an estimated 1.7 million child laborers, a number that has certainly increased with the dissolution governmental oversight of regulation that prohibits employing children under the age of 14.
In addition to the labor violations, traffickers, security officials and employers also force children into sex trafficking as well as smuggling drugs into Saudi Arabia.
“The involvement of children in armed conflict is a crime against humanity and a time bomb with extended damage will be reflected in the region and the world as a whole, not just Yemen,” Basendwa added.
(Written by Torrey Hart; Sept. 25, 2017)