Twenty-seven hours into my internship at ILRF and I already find myself on Capitol Hill. It’s a bittersweet feeling really. On the one hand, I am excited to be amongst the hustle and bustle of the Hill while at the same time uneasy about the reason for which the hearing was held for in the first place. That reason you ask? Human trafficking- definitely an all bitter, not at all sweet topic.
Human trafficking, as defined by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), is the induction of a person to perform labor or commercial sex acts through force, fraud, or coercion. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that at least 12.3 million children and adults are in forced labor, bonded labor and commercial sex servitude at any given time. This $28 billion enterprise preys on some of the most vulnerable populations with promises of employment only to later entrap them in an endless organized crime network negligent of basic freedoms and proper health and safety conditions. Second only to the drug trade, this business thrives on the fact that humans, unlike drugs, can be sold over and over again. Sold?! Really? What are we, some type of produce on aisle seven?!
The hearing took on a more positive tone when we got to hear how some non-profits are fighting (in some cases, literally) human trafficking by means of education and prevention right here in the United States. From instructing flight attendants how to spot a potential trafficking victim through Operation Blue Lightning to Just Yell Fire’s self defense classes for adolescent girls, organizations are doing what they can to minimize the number of people forced into labor around the world. Check out what other discrimination these preventative methods are saving girls from in the workplace.
If for a second you believe that trafficking is only a problem occurring in some small country you’ve never even heard of, think again. The exploitation of human beings is an epidemic both within and across international borders. That’s right, it’s happening in the United States and as close as our backyards and neighborhood Playground. It is too often that migrant workers are trafficked, forced to work in unfamiliar land and because of their undocumented status, don’t demand their rights for fear of being deported. Regardless of where it’s taking place, human trafficking is wrong and it must me stopped.
I walked away from the Hill reminded that unlike the different opinions we may all have towards politics, the violation of human rights is an issue that should be of grave concern for all, no matter what President’s face we have imprinted on our t-shirts. Human trafficking is a direct infringement on worker’s rights and it is up to us to spread awareness so that this bitter reality can be dealt the sweet taste of justice, liberation and hope.
For more information on human trafficking, check out these sites:
Not for Sale Campaign
Shared Hope International
The Somaly Mam Foundation