Community Update

World Pulse Toolkits Available!

At World Pulse, we recognize the need for ongoing learning—for you and for your community! Our toolkits are all available here.

We are especially excited to share our signature Citizen Journalism and Digital Empowerment Curriculum. Start learning today!

In Defense of Dignity

The Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom,justice and peace in the world.

The word "dignity" is mentioned five times in the UDHR. it is an important word that is most often defined by its abuse of it. For example, human trafficking, in all of its insidious forms, turns any positive meaning of dignity upside down.

The primary focus of Violence is Power Over another person, place or resources. In human trafficking, violence is the tool used to keep the "slaves" in line.

Let's address this issue of dignity in the area of sex slavery in human trafficking. For the traffickers and pimps the goal is money, pure and simple, at the loss of dignity of the sex slave. When a person is forced to lose his/her dignity, their sense of self-worth plummets into the depths of despair and hopelessness. Depression, post traumatic stress, sexual transmitted diseases and abject fear are only a few of the many side effects of the sex slave who has lost her dignity.

What dignity do the perpetrators of this travesty of human trafficking possess? When they exert their violent Power Over others without concern or compassion, what does that say about their own inherent sense of dignity? Did they willingly sell their dignity to that piece of paper that represents currency? Money is nothing more than paper that we give meaning to. In this perspective, how many lives around the world are lost, stolen and distorted by a piece of paper? Is not one's personal dignity lost then by both the trafficker/pimp and the slave?

Then there is the "john" or the man that uses the sex slave. Where is his dignity? What is he looking for? Does his meaning of money indicate that he has the power to buy his Power Over for fifteen minutes at the expense of another? Is he looking for a quick fix for his sexual dysfunction? Does he like himself so little that he feels he has to pay for a few minutes of intimacy? Did he just willingly pay to surrender his own dignity?

Now we have all three major players in human trafficking operating without their human right to personal dignity.

UDHR - Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act toward one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

What is the key here to restoring personal dignity? Is the answer more violence? (Personally I feel that violence is a highly overrated problem solving technique.) Is it education? Is it more family counseling? More hugs? Perhaps if each and every one of us were to live within our own inherent, personal stance of dignity, we could be beacons of "dignity light" to all potential slaves, traffickers and johns before they turn away fro their own dignity. What do you think?

K-lee Starland "The Audacious Ladies of La Gran Sorellanza" (a novel about human trafficking)



Celine's picture

Dear K-Lee, I love this

Dear K-Lee,
I love this piece! Thank you for shaming those who turn the positive meaning of dignity upside down.
Indeed human trafficking and sex slavery are instruments of abuse, which work against personal dignity of the victim. They are instruments in the hands of oppressors-- those who have and exercise powers over others.

Most women with disabilities are most vulnerable to sex slavery hence they lack the power to control their affairs and power to understand easily especially when they are being lured. Being a woman, living with a disability and testing positive to HIV are multiple tragedy better imagined. What about if the woman is living in the global south where poverty is associated with living with disability? Unimaginable tragedy!

I tell you, in Nigeria, despite the recognition of the UDHR, dignity is never a word meant for PWDs where they are only seen as objects of charity and alms-beggars. Nigerian societies have so much debased and undignified them that they prefer giving them alms on the streets to giving them jobs and security. Persons with disabilities who beg on the streets make living than those who think it is not dignifying to go on street begging. Yet, sometimes and in some state such as Lagos, government go to the streets to flog and arrest these beggars-- more inhuman and degrading treatments, Isn't it?

Take care dear sister.

Starland's picture

The human condition

is one of debasement of others and thus themselves. Many many blessings on the disabled and all others who live without their right to dignity. Thank you so much.

K-lee Starland, Ph.D.

pelamutunzi's picture


you are right dignity is very important and it is evil for anyone to take it away from another person. sex trafficking is evil. forcing anyone to have sex should be shunned those who buy this sex should be enlightened. its time mainly men learn that they also have dignity because as they remove that of others by buying or selling sex they are also losing their dignity.

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.

Starland's picture


I commend any and all men groups out there offering and supporting men in their own dignity and thereby the dignity of all women and children too. Thank you so much.


K-lee Starland, Ph.D.

Emily Anyango's picture


Dignity is like gravity to our personality,it holds us before different personalities and we end up with respect.With it one would never go beyond her way, it holds us to the perimeter,thank you so much and may the Almighty God continue giving you wisdom,be Blessed Amen!!!! Meet me at http//

ketwangi orphanage and learning center Kisumu Kenya

Starland's picture

Thank you

Many blessing on you and work you do.


K-lee Starland, Ph.D.


courage! nous sommes ensemble

courage! nous sommes ensemble dans cette lutte pour la dignité long temps perdue


Magazine »

Read global coverage through women's eyes

Letters to a Better World

Letters to a Better World

Community »

Connect with women on the ground worldwide

womenspace's picture

CAMBODIA: Ordinary Women Can Make a Difference

Campaigns »

Be heard at influential forums

WWW: Women Weave the Web

WWW: Women Weave the Web

Programs »

Help us train women citizen journalists

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

Partners »

Join forces with our wide network of partners

Nobel Women's Initiative

Nobel Women's Initiative