Human Trafficking Awareness Month
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month and after the hoopla of all of the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kawnaza, Black Friday and New Years) the last thing anyone wants to hear is another “special” time. But, this is one that needs a pause in the the rush of our mindless day-to-day.
Trafficking in people has become more than a small cottage industry. It isn’t about faceless people in far off places. It is a $32 Billion dollar global epidemic. Trafficking is about you.
What? I’m not a trafficker.
In a very direct way, we are traffickers. I don’t mean that we go and scoop up people in a van and sell them into sex slavery. What most of us do is a bit little more deep and subversive. We fund human trafficking. We are responsible for keeping the cycle of victimization going.
Estimates vary, but as many as 21 Million people are trapped in forced labor. These victims are lost in the human trafficking discussion behind sex trafficking victims. No one debates the utter foulness of sex trafficking and growing grass roots support systems are beginning to increase the numbers of reported cases and prosecution. Vast numbers of labor trafficking victims don’t have access to support groups, and when they are identified, the victims tend to be criminalized and deported as undocumented workers.
You’ve seen the sweatshops in urban areas, the densely packed spaces full of sewing machines, visible for a second when a heavy steel door opens. It that okay? You can get your fake designer purse, or knock off clothes for a fraction of the price. The real price is paid by the millions of people trapped in these labor prisons. A million and a half people are smuggled into the United States by drug cartels and sweat shop employers. We can’t say it doesn’t happen here.
A mindful consumer is the trafficker’s worst nightmare. Not For Sale, a non-profit organization, established to combat human trafficking it all its forms, has compiled a list of manufactures and brands who rely on forced labor, subject their workers to impoverished conditions and poor workplace monitoring. Their Apparel Report is a shocking indictment of the manufacturers and importer who reply on forced and child labor, but, people, it’s also about us. We buy this stuff.
Take a moment during Human Trafficking Month and figure out how you fit into this equation. Simply stop and think. There are several legitimate organizations who provide education, training and recovery services for trafficking victims.
My novel, Little River, is a fictional account of human trafficking. I donate a percentage of all sales to Not For Sale to support their work. I know, it’s not much, but it’s a start. Won’t you consider helping them, too?