I read an article the other day summarizing how many people in advance of February 14–a holiday I’ve boycotted for other reasons–are encouraging people to write and email executives of chocolate candy companies to tell them that there shouldn’t be child labor or forced labor in their chocolate. Have you thought about where your chocolate or your candy comes from?
I love chocolate. I love children. But this article talks about how children are being trafficked for chocolate. Children living in towns all over West Africa, girls and boys I’ll never meet. I learned that 2/3 of the world’s chocolate comes from the cocoa trade on the Ivory Coast. The question comes. How much do I like chocolate?
To be honest, I don’t like chocolate candy. I prefer chocolate desserts, baked goods, stuff that comes out of an oven. But I can’t grant myself an indulgence on the matter too easily.
Thanks to some good people at my church, I’ve been learning about the modern ways people are being enslaved, particularly children being forced into sex work across the world and in my own city. Incidentally, Patricia Engel has a searching, well-written short story with a character who deals with this in her collection, Vida. I seem to remember the incomparable ZZ Packer having a relevant story in Drinking Coffee Elsewhere.
Kids are being sold, sometimes by their families, sometimes by other pimps, so that their bodies are being given to someone else. “Given” is the wrong word. They are being offered. They are pushed. Exploited. They are molested in the act of such flagrant offerings, pushes, and exploitations. They are being forced to clean houses, to raise other children, and to perform sexual acts on the men and women who “bought” them.
Sex trafficking is one the newest ways of enslaving, though it’s not so new. Unfortunately people aren’t connecting the purposeful enslavement of small children with holidays like Valentine’s Day or with their favorite candies. Perhaps it’s not altogether appropriate to suggest a connection. But the truth is that there are boys and girls and unnamed women and men working themselves haggard so that the shiny bar and that glitzy wrapping with the dark chocolate you love can sit on the shelf at the store. When you buy that bar, when you munch into that candy, when you talk about love, or when you ask that special person to be your valentine, remember that children who can’t remember what love is, quite literally, had a hand in that chocolate.