Let me start out by stating that I’m not a social worker, reformer, or activist. I’m simply an observer – a writer. As I develop a novel and the plot lines within, I pull together source information and research the subject area to provide the reader with a realistic story line. In the process of creating Little River, I delved into the seedy underbelly of human trafficking, and came away surprised at how little is done to combat the issue. Trafficking in people is centuries old. Improvements in technology and efficient underground transportation networks contribute to the ever lessening value of human life. The price of progress.
Human trafficking is a $32 Billion dollar industry that considers families, women and children, nothing more than a commodity, their “stock-in-trade.” According to the International Labor Organization, forced labor, sex slavery and, most recently, black market organ transplants, account for 20.9 million people trapped in human trafficking networks. To put that in perspective, the number of people caught up in trafficking is nearly equal to the population of Australia, or the populations of Greece and Romania combined.
Over 55 percent of these victims are women and children, forced or coerced into prostitution. While most find their way out of the business, in extreme cases, the women are kept as breeding stock, to produce more girls for the sex trade, or boys for the labor market. This depravity isn’t limited to third-world. If you’re completely honest, you’ve seen it in sweat shops in Los Angeles, or New York and on the street corners of countless cities.
As I wrote a novel involving human trafficking, an ugly truth emerged. People don’t want to acknowledge the existence of this social stain and governments turn a blind eye. We don’t want to see it. If we ignore it, the problem goes away. Few resources are allocated for the tracking and prosecuting human traffickers and even less is allotted to address the needs of the victims.
Traffickers tend to target low risk victims, persons who have few ties, those who tend to be loners and people without resources. Invisible people. People who disappear, unnoticed.
The victims are someone’s sister, daughter or grandchild and their enslavement shatters families and ruins lives. Non-Governmental Organizations such as, Not For Sale, The Polaris Project, The International Rescue Committee and The Freedom Network all work wonders with limited resources. Until governments support one another, implement a joint effort to crack down on human traffickers, and reduce the demand for their “product,” lives will continue to be fractured and lost in an underground economy that considers human life disposable.
We can’t wait for governments to take action. What will you do when you see human trafficking? What will you do when it happens to someone you know?