Recently in class we have been discussing Judith Shklar and who we believe she would include as a “citizen” of our country. This got me thinking about whether or not she would consider a group of young men and women, whom of which I have been working with for years now, citizens or not. This group consists of saved child sex slaves currently residing in a safe house in Arizona. These young men and women have been pulled out of a life of sex trafficking and sent to a non-profit known as Streetlight as opposed to going to jail. For the purpose of this blog post however I want to clarify that I will be taking into considerations the lives they had before they were saved and where Shklar may put them in the spectrum of citizenship.
Initially, when thinking about this question I thought that there was no way Shklar could consider child sex slaves as citizens because all the money they earn goes straight to their pimps and I know for a fact none of them practiced their right to vote. Based off of Shklars criteria this would mean that they were not citizens and even though these victims did not choose to enter this horrific life, no other judgment could be made. This, at first, got me to be rather irritated with Shklar and I began to not care for her theories anymore. However, I then began to think of the situation in a new way and started to consider what these young men and women were going through as modern day slavery. In this regard I believe it is safe to say the Shklar would feel the same way about this group as she did about slaves of Americas past. They had no voice, no say, and no choice but what their master or, in this case, pimps tell them. Therefore, they are not citizens but they also have not been given the opportunity to try and become citizens. In Shklars book, American Citizenship, she uses a quote by Elizabeth Stanton on page 59 that says, “to deny political quality is to deny the ostracized self respect.” This quote hit it home for me that Shklar does not consider it fair for a human in a situation of slavery, who cannot choose for him or herself to be a citizen, to be placed on any spectrum whatsoever. Also, if you look at Shklars views of cruelty, she clearly has strong sympathies for those who are not given a voice, “Every adult should be able to make as many effective decisions without fear or favor about as many aspects of his or her life as is compatible with the like freedom of every adult.” and that this “is the original and only defensible meaning of liberalism” (The Liberalism of Fear). Therefore, although it is rather ambiguous, the answer to my original question of whether or not child sex slaves would be considered citizens is that they are not according to her original criteria, but in the situation of modern day slavery they are prevented from actively having the choice. Thus, they cannot be considered one or the other.
this photo is of the original streetlight youth section, when we were going from school to school
spreading awareness about the issue. (im on the far right)