A simple legislation can save lives
As unholy campaign of parliamentary elections has started in Armenia, all voters get is either a bribe or promise for justice. If they don’t get the first, the second one is absolutely guaranteed. A promise for justice has sort of become a fundamental right in Armenia.
I remember a professor at my University in Denver complaining last semester about Stephan Demirchyan – a popular opposition politician in Armenia – who kept saying “Justice!” when the professor asked him about his presidential campaign platform during an interview. After the professor asked Demirchyan that he wanted to know about his plans, the popular politician – who came to stage after his famous father was assassinated in 1999 – repeated again, “Justice!”
Few would argue that Demirchyan is not, how shall I say this, very bright, yet he is not the only “justice” politician in Armenia.
Economic theorists suggest that there is no supply without demand, so there must be demand for justice in Armenia. So there is no question that ordinary Armenians want justice – especially economic and social. There has been much discussion about the first issue and I am not sure I have enough knowledge yet to give suggestions for economic improvement (it seems it is easier to attack globalization and neoliberalism for world poverty and I can do a good job in that – but I don’t think it would be fair and productive in this post).
Nevertheless, it seems social justice may have better chances for certain improvement – one reason is that it has so many issues involved. Human trafficking, for example, is a social problem in Armenia caused by economic depression and, from the first look, it seems there is no solution/or even reduction without solving economic problems first. But economy is not the only problem for creating conditions for human trafficking. There is domestic human trafficking in the United States, for example, where runaway and homeless youth are often victims of sexual slavery.
This is true for Colorado, the state I currently reside in. Colorado is also both a destination and a transit for human trafficking, because it has the largest airport in the United States and two nationwide highways crossing each other. One way Colorado has tried to fight human trafficking is to punish with life imprisonment or death penalty for trafficking in children (it is the only state as of now to give capital punishment for this crime). The law is in effect just for several months, but I think tough laws and regulations are important.
Coming back to Armenian elections and social justice. I think civil society groups should drop the maximalist call for justice – because all they will get is a promise for “justice” – and initiate and request specific legislation promises (it seems this could be done through lobbying, but not in Armenia).
For example, an act to make t-announcements on flights between Armenia and direct trafficking destinations – such as Dubai/UAE – can be a possible legislation initiated by civil groups in a campaign – if there is any – to fight/stop human trafficking. (A campaign for severe punishment for traffickers could be of help, too.)
In November of 2006 I wrote of new direct flights between Yerevan (Armenia) and Sharja (United Arab Emirates) that will apparently make it easier for traffickers to “import” women and children from Armenia directly to UAE – the largest market of Armenian sex slaves – and enhance Armenia’s role as a transit country for human trafficking. On November 3, 2006, I sent an e-mail to Air Arabia – the operator of the flight – asking
Are you aware that most “travelers” to UAE from Armenia are women and children tricked and sold to sexual slavery (human trafficking)?
If yes, what steps are you taking to make sure you do not transfer trafficking victims?
I received a fast response from an Air Arabia representative arguing that not all passengers will be trafficking victims and that they can’t do anything about it:
Dear Mr.Simon, Thank you for writing to us. With reference to the same, Air Arabia going to start services to Yerevan from 16/11/2006.Further, as an airline, it is not possible to monitor the passengers who are entering to UAE and their intention. Once the whole travel documents are clear, we can not stop the passengers from their desired flight. Also there is a lot of genuine passengers are traveling in between these sectors. Thank you for your interest in Air Arabia With kind regards Princy Kurien
So I thought a few days for a way to help Air Arabia to fight human trafficking. I wrote in my second letter:
I understand that Air Arabia has limited abilities of monitoring trafficking victims getting on the board; it must be done by the overall airport security.
I think we can all fight human trafficking by small actions. Will Air Arabia be willing to pass out brochures (or show a clip) in Armenian, Russian and English to all passengers in Yerevan onboard before the flight takes off to Sharja? The brochure will tell the passengers the brief present of human trafficking and will ask them to let an attendant know (anytime during the flight) that they have been tricked into trafficking. In this case, they will be returned to the security unit of the Yerevan airport.
I can have a non-profit organization to print those brochures for you. So you will not be spending a penny on this good cause.
The e-mail was never answered, and I was not too hopeful in an airline company to be interested in fighting human trafficking – a large portion of their passengers and, therefore, revenue.
So I sent e-mail to some of the few female parliamentarians in Armenia suggesting airplane announcement legislation with the hope that they might show more solidarity to slave women. I never got response from them.
Unfortunately, at this time I don’t live in Armenia and cannot lobby much for “t-announcements” on flights between Armenia and Dubai. But I think specific legislation requests and, thus, promises may be a better way for promoting justice, at least for several issues, in Armenia. And why not start with human trafficking?