Thursday, October 29, 2015

Modern Slavery

Earlier tis week, I saw a series of articles which compelled me to write this blog. The first is a story from LA, near where I live. The sheriff is no longer allowing the description of children as prostitutes ( and, instead he says they should be called and treated as victims. This is a change for the LAPD, which previously labelled teens as prostitutes, and they were treated as criminals. Moreover, shelters turned trafficked teens away as they were unprepared to handle a pimp returning for his "property" (

While older teens may consent to sex, it doesn't make sense to me, as a mother, that a preteen or young teen can, or would want to voluntarily. And, prostitution is sex without a relationship, which is what most teens who consent to sex are really wanting. Hence, I was glad to see this decision. Hopefully it will save many children from a life as a trafficking victim.

Then, there were a couple articles about human trafficking increasing since the earthquake in Nepal ( and Both of these discuss how the disruption of society with many orphans due to the earthquake puts more children at risk, since the normal caregivers for children are absent, either due to death, or being even more stressed since the earthquake.

During World War II, Korean and Chinese women were forced to become prostitutes for the Japanese military. Each was raped approximately 50 times per week for an average of 3 years ( In some cases these women were abducted, in others, lured with the promise of work. If they became pregnant, they were forced to have abortions and they were checked regularly for venereal disease. An estimated 200,000 women were Comfort Women in Asia. Finally, in 1994, Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama of Japan issued an apology and some of the women received compensation. Many of the women still suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder 60 years after the war.

Germany also forced women to become prostitutes. Prisoners in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp were frequently forced to provide sexual services for Germans ( and Some of these women were sent to other concentration camp brothels. For some women, this was their only chance at survival. Should they become pregnant they were forced to have abortions.

In addition, brothels were established for the soldiers. In France, most of the women had been prostitutes before the war, but were forced to register and work in the German controlled brothels. In Eastern Europe, things were worse ( Raids were held in Polish cities to capture young women and girls to supply them ( On at least one occasion, Polish and Russian women tried a mass escape in Norway ( Frequently women had to service over 20 men in a day, sometimes up to 40 ( Again, the women were checked regularly for venereal disease. If a woman contracted a venereal disease, and she was a Pole, Russian or Jew, she was simply shot. Similarly, she would be executed if she received 3 complaints. Some of the women were sterilized without anesthesia. The survivors have not received an apology or compensation, since they were deemed of  "ill repute," even though they had been forced into the brothels, either directly, on threat of death, or in order to get the necessities of life.

The wife of one of my mother's cousins was forced to tolerate this slavery. The two were married shortly before the start of WWII. He fought with the Polish army, first in Poland, then France and finally with the British. After the war, he returned to find his wife. She had been swept up in one of the street raids and forced to work in a brothel for German soldiers. She was unable to relate to her husband after the war, and so the marriage was dissolved. He went on to rebuild his life; she went on to commit suicide.

More recently, rape on a large scale occurred in the former Yugoslavia ( It also has occurred in many other wars, as war is an extreme case of male bonding.

However, even in countries not at war, sexual slavery exists on a large scale throughout the world. The UN estimates that approximately 2.4 million people are victims of human trafficking at any moment; 80% of these are trafficked for sex ( Low status for women is thought to put women at risk. Children are at even more risk, since they are vulnerable due to naivete, small size, and tendency to be intimidated. It has been estimated that there are 100,000 children who are trafficked in the US.

I am hopeful that viewing these children as the victims they are, rather than blamed for the repeated sexual assaults they endure. I see the new LAPD policy as a step that I hope to see replicated. Hopefully, efforts like the World Vision program in Nepal can be replicated to give vulnerable children a chance to have a life of their own (

Friday, October 23, 2015

Russian Jet Shot Down over Turkey

Yesterday, a Russian jet was shot down over Turkey. It had invaded Turkey's airspace without permission and even had locked radar. It was apparently flying from Russia to Syria where Russia is shoring up the Assad regime against ISIS and other groups.

There are a series of school bombings (;; Some by government forces, others by insurgents.

So people flee, hoping for safety. Because they see no hope at home. And they go to sea in flimsy boats, and many die ( He was far from the only refugee from Syria. Many flee other countries such as Libya.

And, this isn't the only part of the world where people are fleeing their homes for safety. Australia has many refugees and has trouble processing them, so they languish on Nauru and other centers. It is now trying to send these peoples on to the Philippines and Cambodia (

Thursday, October 22, 2015


Russian maps show Russian military bases in Ukraine.

Thursday, October 8, 2015


Many years ago, after my fellowship, I looked into volunteering for Doctors Without Borders. It was as the war in Bosnia was heating up. I had no dependents at the time, and knew that, as a surgeon, the greatest demand might be in a war zone. I mentioned that I knew two Slavic languages. As it worked out, I did not end up as a volunteer. But, I have followed the activities of both MSF (Doctors Without Borders) and EMERGENCY, a similar group. So, it greatly disturbed me that a US airstrike had repeatedly hit a MSF hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan (

As a physician, I take seriously the responsibility of caring for all, even at some risk to myself. I have worked in inner city hospitals where I have been threatened by some gangs, but, excused that due to the drug induced impairment of those who threatened me. And, I have known that many would not have wanted to harm me, knowing that they might later need my services.

International law protects hospitals, both military and civilian, from deliberate attack. Physicians should provide impartial care, and thus, might provide care to both civilians and combatants. Like my experiences in the inner city, those who wage war are at risk of injury, and so they want hospitals and physicians who will care for them. That is why the events of last week are so disturbing. Despite the coordinates of the MSF hospital being provided, there were several bombing runs targeting the hospital reported. Hence, MSF is asking for an investigation of a possible war crime (

The US has bombed hospitals before (, and is not alone in this (; Civilians have increasingly become the victims of war during the last century.

I hope the truth about this event will come out. And, that a hospital can be rebuilt for the people of the region.