Today is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. January is also Trafficking Awareness month with the entire month dedicated to slavery and human trafficking awareness.
I first became aware of the issue of human trafficking in college through the work of an organization called Invisible Children. Invisible Children has been fighting against the use of child soldiers in Uganda for many years, and after hearing about the awful abuse that these young children have had to endure I was moved. At the time, I didn’t know that child soldiers were considered a type of human trafficking, but as my interest grew I started studying more on the topic.
Over the holidays, I was talking about history with my family and we got onto the topic of slavery. I mentioned that there are an estimated 40 million people currently enslaved around the world, and my aunt was shocked. 40 million people is a huge number, and many people argue that there are more slaves now than during slavery. I personally don’t like this statistic because we are not comparing one groups suffering to another groups, but there are millions of people who are enslaved around the world. One of the best ways to end human trafficking is to create awareness. I’m going to share some facts about human trafficking with you as well as some ways that you can become a modern-day abolitionist.
Fact 1: Human trafficking only happens in foreign countries.
False: Human Trafficking happens everywhere. There is no country that is immune from trafficking. A person does not have to be moved from another country in order to be trafficked. You can be trafficked right in your own background. The legal definition of trafficking is:
Trafficking in Persons as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.
An easier definition is that trafficking is the exploitation of vulnerability or it.
Fact 2: Human trafficking is just sex slavery:
False: Human Trafficking can take the form of forced prostitution, but it can also take many other forms:
– Domestic servitude
– Forced criminality
– Sex tourism
– Child Labor
– Organ Trafficking
And there are many others. Human Trafficking can be used in any industry and it is often used in many of the products and services that we use on a daily basis.
Fact 3: Human Trafficking only happens to a certain type of person, maybe someone who is poor or uneducated.
False: Human trafficking can happen to anyone. Most people find themselves in a situation where they are trafficked because they are looking for work. We all need money to support ourselves and our families, traffickers prey upon this fact and exploit it for personal gain. There are stories where people from seemingly “normal” backgrounds fall prey to traffickers.
Here are some ways in which you can help to end slavery:
- If you see something, say something: To steal NYC’s MTA’s slogan if you see something or go into a business and feel like it could be a front for human trafficking you can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. The National Human Trafficking hotline is managed by an organization called the Polaris Project, and they will take any information that you provide. You can provide information anonymously if you choose. Save the number in your phone so that way it’s always handy.
- Download the app TraffikCam for your travels: TraffikCam is an app that allows you to take pictures of your hotel room and provide information about where you are staying. This information helps law enforcement to create a database that they can use while studying videos taken of victims of sex trafficking. By having this database, it will help them to compare the photos and hopefully identity victims faster.
- Join an organization: There are so many organizations that are fighting modern-day slavery. I have been fortunate to be a part of a few and will list some here for you to research which one would be right for you. If you cannot join an organization, think about becoming a donor. For a period in college, I was a monthly donor to Invisible Children and when I was no longer working I let them know and canceled my monthly contribution. Many anti-trafficking organizations are non-profits and can always use donors.
- International Justice Missions
- The Polaris Project
- Covenant House
Endslaverynow.org also has an extensive list of organizations all over the world.
I do believe that in our lifetime we could end slavery. The first step is creating awareness. Human Trafficking has been able to thrive and become a $150 billion dollar industry by living in the shadows. It’s time we look behind the veil and expose it.