Human trafficking still major issue, needs addressing
Published: Monday, February 11, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 11, 2013 20:02
Students need to take a stand and demand that Congress amp up its efforts to end human trafficking and modern-day slavery.
I am not a survivor of human trafficking, nor am I on the front lines providing services to survivors or investigating and arresting trafficking perpetrators. I did not even know people were being trafficked into slavery until my freshman year at the university. I was initially blown away by stories of trafficked victims and was honestly overwhelmed by the scope of the problem when I learned there are an estimated 20 million modern-day slaves in the world today.
Unfortunately, a widespread lack of public awareness about this crime prevents trafficking victims from receiving any help. January was National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and it’s past due for all of us to call upon President Barack Obama and Congress to pass the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The TVPA is our strongest tool for fighting modern-day slavery in the United States, and while it has always enjoyed bipartisan support, Congress has failed to renew it before the end of the last session. This places critical programs to support trafficking victims and put perpetrators behind bars at risk.
I am a person with conscience and a voice and therefore I can help in the fight. I call on my fellow university students to join with me and urge our elected leaders to do what’s right to help end human and sex trafficking.
I recently read Daniel Walker’s non-fiction book “God in a Brothel” and was moved by the story of a 12-year-old girl named Maria who was brutally raped and abandoned by a group of men in Honduras. She became pregnant and, having been disowned by her family, desperately tried to find a way to take care of herself and the baby. She went out looking for a job, but what she unfortunately found was a gang that capitalized on her vulnerability. The girl was sold into a brothel and was told she would not be released until she paid off her purchase price.
Another story from Walker’s piece—Tiana and Karla, 11 or 12-year-old girls, who were forced into the room where multiple men were ready to buy one of them to have sex. The male pimp explained that they could have sex with either girl for $30 each. These girls, being watched carefully by the pimp, were well-practiced at flirting and as the men were about to buy one of the girls, they asked if there were any younger than those two. The pimp smiled knowingly and left the room bringing back Sua and Bala who were only 6 or 7-years-old. The children smiled forcefully despite being visibly nervous and afraid. Then, satisfied, the men paid the pimp a deposit.
When I think about these girls, I can clearly hear their cries in my head. I don’t like hearing it, but as much as I wish I did not have to listen, I need to hear it. And many more people need to hear stories like theirs, to remind themselves of the reality of this injustice so we can act.
Men, women and children around the world are trafficked every day into the commercial sex industries. Those who participate in human trafficking could be an organized crime syndicate, a high-powered government official, part of a complex international organization or merely a husband or wife employing a single domestic worker.
With the beginning of the 113th Congress, Delaware’s Congressional Delegation has the chance to right this wrong. Last year, Obama pledged to increase the government’s anti-trafficking efforts and called for the renewal of the TVPA. In the process of doing so he identified human trafficking by its rightful name—“modern slavery.” In the last Congress, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) was a vocal supporter for the renewal of the TVPA. Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.) and Rep. John Carter (R-Tex.), on the other hand, failed to appear on the roster of supporters for the bipartisan versions of the bill in both the Senate and the House. We hope that the bipartisan renewal of the TVPA will be introduced on Capitol Hill and that the entire Delaware delegation will be first in line to lend their support for this critical piece of legislation.
I’ll be calling my elected leaders. I’ll be telling others to call. Together, we can help provide the critical resources and new tools for those on the front lines in the fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery. We must do it now for the sake of people like Maria. We must do it for ourselves.