Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Unsettled: Part I

By Jodi

Human trafficking.  I am taken aback by the sound of these two words, which don’t belong together in the same sentence.  Drugs are trafficked, but, surely, I tell myself, not people, right?  I can hardly fathom that this term is attached to a very real, very dark practice happening every day all over the world.  Human trafficking is the transport and sale of human beings who are forced to work for others.  This ugly crime is the world’s fastest growing criminal industry, generating about $32 billion per year.1   Trafficking victims are often kidnapped or lured under false pretenses, abused, and imprisoned with little or no pay for their work.  Human trafficking is essentially modern-day slavery.  Until recently, I thought slavery ended in 1865 with the passing of the 13th amendment, but nothing could be further from the truth.  I was astounded to discover that there are approximately 12-27 million slaves in the world today,which means more slaves exist today than at any other time in recorded history.  People are enslaved in various industries including agriculture, domestic servitude, factories, and the sex industry.  The U.S. State Department estimates 600,000-800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year3.  The majority of trafficking victims are used primarily for sexual exploitation (also known as sex trafficking).  80% of sex-trafficking victims are female, and about 50% of those females are under-age girls4.

America - The Land of the Free?

  At this point you might be thinking this happens only in remote, third world countries but not in America, the “land of the free.”  Sadly and shockingly, human trafficking does occur right here in the United States.  Approximately, 14,500-17,500 people are trafficked into the U.S. annually.5   However, trafficking doesn’t just occur across international borders.  Many U.S. sex trafficking victims are American citizens – often underage, runaway girls lured into prostitution within 48 hours of being on the streets.  An estimated 100,000-300,000 children are forced into prostitution or pornography in the U.S. each year6.  Nowhere in the country seems to be immune.  According to the Polaris Project, human trafficking cases have been reported in all 50 states, from large metropolitan areas to small towns.  Within the last 5 months, I’ve seen two reports of sex-trafficking right here in the Boston area: the first involving a 15 year old girl who was kidnapped then forced into prostitution at local motels for 10 days, the second involving women trafficked from southeast Asia and forced/coerced to work at brothels in Cambridge, Allston, and Boston.  Look within the pages of your local paper or Google “trafficking” in your area, and you’re likely to find similar stories.

1. International Labor Office, A Global Alliance Against Forced Labor, Global Report Under the Follow-up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

2. Free the Slaves, “Top 10 Facts About Modern Slavery,” http://www.freetheslaves.net
3. U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, 2008.
4. U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, 2007.

5. U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, 2004.

6. ECPAT International, www.ecpat.net

*Please note that the views expressed do not necessarily represent those of everyone associated with Amirah, Inc. or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.

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