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9181: Restavek is slavery; Simidor responds to St. Vil (fwd)
St. Vil denies that the Haitian restavek children are slaves, because their parents did not "sell" them into that condition. The argument that slaves are a commodity tied to the auction bloc may be true for chattel slavery, but historically people who were captured in village raids or who were born into that condition were not necessarily bought or sold. On the other hand, the fact that neither the children nor their relatives receive any kind of wage for child labor, the fact the restavek children are kept in bondage against their will, well, that's slavery.
Some facts are difficult to accept -- witness the general reaction in the U.S. against Bill Maher's comment about the cowardliness of waging war by remote control. But truths are truths no matter who speak them. The practice of domestic slavery against destitute children is real in Haiti. It is widespread. It is entrenched. And it must be stopped. Yes, it is ironic that the children of Spartacus should be enslaved in their own country as in the Dominican Republic. Yes, some of the people who throw that criticism in our face do not necessarily mean well for Haiti. But Haitians' hostility to that criticism is proof that, left to their fate, the restavek children will remain slaves for another 200 years. Indeed, why should Haitians abandon such a useful tradition, when the victims of that tradition are so helpless against it?
If there is a single issue for which Haiti deserves international condemnation, this is it. Those who mean well should embrace that criticism instead of wrapping themselves, as St. Vil does, in the wounded flag of so-called national dignity. In fact, the lack of stronger international condemnation is the extent to which the "international community" doesn't really give a damn about the children of the poor. So why invite outside criticism to begin with? Because it is human nature for Haitians to sit on their hands, until the restavek tradition becomes so thoroughly exposed that we are shamed/compelled to do something about it.
I know that Aristide in his heart is against the restavek tradition. I commend him for that. But Aristide the politician will not challenge that tradition in any significant way, unless there is a strong movement pushing him in that direction. It's up to the true Haitian patriots and to the friends of Haiti to pick up the criticism against restavek slavery and to use it as a catalyst for change. What a fitting present it would be for the barefoot soldiers of Haiti's war of independence, on the eve of the bicentennial of that independence in 2004, if we were to free their great-great-grand-children from the opprobrium of domestic slavery!