By Melissa Carella, Editor-in-Chief
Published: Friday, April 8, 2011
"Gangs used to sell drugs," says Sgt. Kelly O'Connell of the Boston Police Department, as she explains the human trafficking crisis to the New York Times. "Now many of them [gangs] have shifted to selling girls because it's just as lucrative, but far less risky." With an estimated 27 million people afflicted by human trafficking (according to dosomething.com), it is the third-largest organized crime globally. Human trafficking is the exploitation of any person as an exchange for services, those services most often being sex. This occurs all around the world regardless of a person's race, gender, or age. People are used as commodities, and become dehumanized as a result.
Slavery began thousands of years ago, and still exists today—just not the way we know it. Modern-day slavery is known as human trafficking. Although it is mostly women who are targeted, men can be as well. Sometimes women are coerced into sexual acts, but they can also be used for domestic purposes. Many of the victims believe that they are coming into a certain country for a better life, or at least promised it, but are then forced into servitude. It is important to realize that although a lot of human trafficking occurs in foreign, poor countries, it is present in everywhere, including in the United States. According to Foreign Policy Digest, "There are 192 member nations of the United Nations and of those, 161 countries are affected by human trafficking."
Most people are able to able to go to work without fear of being beaten. However, for a victim of human trafficking, you are likely to be beaten for not doing what you are forced to do. It is important to recognize the use of force, because not many people can empathize with victims of humans trafficking. This is because they cannot even imagine what it would be like to become completely dehumanized. After all, who would really want to imagine themselves in this state? However, this is what millions of people are living with.
Not many people are aware of the existence of human trafficking, or at least its severity. Even if they do, people are likely to pursue other issues in their society. Because of this, human trafficking thrives. By passing legislation and raising awareness of human trafficking, there is a chance that changes towards its former and future victims can be made. Awareness can be made by not only teaching people about human trafficking, but law enforcement should also create better protocols to deal with instances of human trafficking. As for victims of human trafficking, there is an issue to be addressed regarding younger survivors. Many younger survivors of human trafficking end up in foster homes that don't provide enough services to rehabilitate them. This in turn makes it easier for them to end up on the street. By improving services given to survivors of human trafficking, it makes it less likely that they will end up right where they started.
In order to abolish human trafficking, there needs to be a global collective effort. In a world where money is often hard to come by, it is not hard to believe that it would be hard to achieve an end to modern-day slavery. The United States itself may seem prosperous, especially in comparison to, other nations, but this is not the reality. Our country has a deficit of more than eleven trillion dollars. Knowing this, it is not hard to believe that states are unable to get adequate funding. The funding that does go to our states seems to be for the bare minimum. So when it comes to fixing such a large issue as human trafficking, one can understand how state legislation may be hesitant in funding a global initiative for human trafficking.
Due to economic insecurity in our country, it makes it harder to combat the issue of human trafficking. However, by educating people about the issue, it is a step in the right direction. A lot of people are not familiar with human trafficking, unlike more publicized issues such as hunger. However, human trafficking is an issue that should be exposed to those who are not aware of it. This is because no matter where you live, human trafficking is likely to be occurring. Just because you are not experiencing the devastating effects of it does not mean that you should write the issue off.
One might argue that enough is done for the cause of human trafficking. For instance, people are hired by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the U.S. just to combat this crime. In addition to this, there are numerous organizations that are seeking legislation to prevent the exploitation of individuals, such the Polaris Project and The International Labour Organization. However, it seems as though there should still be more done. This is because over time, human trafficking will get much worse. For instance, sex is glorified with the media, and it seems as though with each passing year, television and movies are becoming more sexually explicit. With a sex obsession in our media being ever-present, human trafficking will without a doubt get worse. After exposing the public to such sexually explicit material, some people will start to want even more than what they can merely visualize—they will become focused on having it; these are the people who purchase others for their own gratification. As a nation, we have become so desensitized to sex and violence in the media that sometimes we do not realize the implications it can have on others.
If you were growing up before the 1970s and saw a poster of sliced off body parts, you would probably become hysterical. Today, most people can walk past a poster from the movie Saw and it will not faze them as to what they are looking at. Being as desensitized to sex and violence today, we may eventually become desensitized to the use of slaves. After all, slavery was once normal before. Using a person as a "sex slave" just gives the old form of slavery a new twist. Due to this present state of slavery, many organizations have thankfully dedicated their time and effort to pursue changes that will help combat human trafficking.
As the humanitarian Nelson Mandela once said, "Only free men can negotiate; prisoners cannot enter into contracts." This correlates to the issue of human trafficking because victims do not have the strength to defend themselves against the people who enslave them. By being a person who is free from human trafficking, I am able to make a change with this issue. So is anyone else who is aware of it. Simply being aware of the issue is itself a contribution in the effort against human trafficking. As mentioned previously, the media tend to focus in on sex and violence. Focusing our attention on human trafficking instead would be far more worthwhile, as it affects people from every country, state, and community.