Slavery was abolished 152 years ago, yet there is twice the number of slaves now than when slaves were seized from Africa in 4 centuries of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. This modern slavery is known as Human Trafficking. Human Trafficking is a serious, underrated crime that is made of forced labor, forced sex, and lack of respect to all genders and race. This world-wide violation needs to be taken out of the shadows and noticed more by society.
Human Trafficking is divided into two categories- sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Sex trafficking victims are manipulated or forced against their will to engage in sex acts for money. The traffickers might use violence, threats, or the promise of unconditional love and affection to lure the victims. For example, the trafficker would rape the victim and get them pregnant, and later tell the victim they will kill the baby if they don't obey them. Or the victim will fall in love and the pimp would buy things for them or pretend they love them, but in reality, they just get close to them to sell the victim for sex. Truck stops, hotel rooms, rest areas, street corners, clubs, and private residences are places where victims are forced to sell sex to receive money. Forced labor takes on many forms and happens here in the United states and overseas. Victims are made to work for little or no pay. Very often these victims are forced to manufacture or grow the products we use and consume daily. Every year in the United States thousands of human trafficking cases are reported, but much more go unnoticed.
Human Trafficking occurs in every part of the world, such as big cities, suburbs, and even in rural towns. Victims can be U.S citizens or immigrants ranging from all types of race, age, or gender; one thing they share is that they are vulnerable to being exploited. All victims of trafficking may be subject to physical, psychological, and social impacts. Escape is nearly impossible for the sufferer. Sometimes they are locked up during the day and closely supervised while working. If they are in a foreign country, they might not speak the language which leaves them helpless and isolated. Victims of trafficking often experience harsh physical impacts due to excessive work or the use of force of traffickers. If the victim protests they are threatened with violence and can sometimes be killed by the trafficker. They also may be exposed to serious health risks such as HIV/AIDS, as well as serious mental health risks. Anxiety, Insecurity, fear, and trauma are all effects of someone who is trafficked. Several studies indicate high levels of PTSD ( Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Trafficking can also lead to cognitive impairment, memory loss, depression, and suicide. For children, it can cause ramification to their emotional, physical, and overall psychological development. Victims are often isolated from social circles, leaving people unable to engage socially or reach out for help. People specifically trafficked for sex have described facing stigma and other negative responses during and after their slavery experience, especially from friends or family.
Not only does Human Trafficking have an impact on its victims, it also has an impact on society. Most Americans don’t believe trafficking is happening in this country, but it's actually happening right in our backyard. The longer this misconception is perceived, the less there can be done to notice it. By turning our heads away from Human trafficking, all we are doing is inserting money into the pockets of the traffickers. “It undermines what America is, and it should cause outrage and frustration. This is a modern-day atrocity; it’s modern slavery. It undermines our values and beliefs as the land of opportunity and the land of freedom. There isn’t freedom if there is a population enslaved.” The purchasing of people for sex and labor communicates to society that human beings are nothing more than objects being used as commodities. Women’s identity can have a dollar value attached to it. There are many reverberations in our society, both to the victims subjected to trafficking, our civilization as a whole, and our culture of ignoring it. Human Trafficking also affects interstate and foreign commerce. Trafficking for such purposes as forms of forced labor has an impact on nationwide employment and the labor market. Despite being the third most profitable criminal activity, Human Trafficking impedes nation and international economic growth.
Globally, there are 20 to 30 million slaves today, and three in every 1,000 people are trafficked. Human Trafficking generates about $32 billion a year, making more than Nike, Google, and Starbucks combined. Human Trafficking can be caused by a wide array of factors depending on the region, type of trafficking, cultural and social factors. The most vulnerable people to trafficking are those who are migrating or displaced. Poverty is a major cause of vulnerability to human trafficking. Anytime someone is considered less valuable, less human than others, the risk exists for them to be treated as goods. Every year in the United States thousands of Human Trafficking cases are reported, but many more go unnoticed. The reason behind this is because victims might be afraid to come forward, or we may not recognize the signs, even if it’s happening right in front of us.
According to Gourmet Healthy Chocolates, 1 billion people eat chocolate everyday and the average American consumes 12 pounds of chocolate each year. Some products found in the United States may contain ingredients that were created by trafficking victims. The most common product is chocolate. By purchasing chocolate products, consumers are unwillingly supporting Human Trafficking. Chocolate is made from cocoa, which is harvested on plantations by victims of forced labor. Commodities we eat everyday are also made by victims such as coffee, sugar, rice, and cotton. Fair trade products are food that is produced under standards designed to end and prevent the poverty, sweatshop labor conditions, and labor trafficking. Which means that if a product contains a Fair Trade logo, the product came from someone who was getting paid fairly. Although Fair Trade products are more expensive than non Fair Trade products, it can help decrease forced labor in the United States and even the world. By suggesting to people that Fair trade products are better for society and representing equality to victims of forced labor, it can help this worldwide issue decrease.
Today, school’s have lessons taught to kids about not doing drugs, no bullying, and suicide, but they're no lessons being taught about sex trafficking. The International Labor Organization estimated that in 2012, children represented 26 percent (or 5.5 million) of the 20.9 million victims worldwide. Both U.S. citizen and foreign national children are trafficked for sex and labor in the United States. In fact, many child victims of human trafficking are students in the American school system. Which is why children need to be taught what human trafficking is, how they can identify a victim, be aware of their surroundings, and to reach out for help if they are in trouble.
Abolishing this crime will take many years, but that doesn’t mean we should just give up. By fighting against this crime, we can shine a light and and bring it out of the shadows to end human trafficking and give humanity its rights back. Put the rights back into rights because for some, freedom isn’t a given.