Thursday, June 16, 2011

Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery Chain

Several weeks ago, CNN released the Headline: Sheriff’s deputy, 2 others arrested in Arizona Human Trafficking Bust.  Deputy Alfedo Navarrette faces charges connected to human smuggling, money laundering and participating in a crime syndicate.  Human smuggling?  Human smuggling is connected to human trafficking.  Human trafficking, as defined by the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons is the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of person, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, the abuse of power, or a position of vulnerability for the purpose of exploitation.”  As a government official, Deputy Navarrette has exploited individuals upon the basis described above, primarily for the purpose of drug smuggling.  There are many more areas of modern day slavery and human trafficking than prostitution. 

As a child, I remember shopping with a friend for new sneakers at a local shoe store.  When my friend finally chose a pair she liked, her mother checked the inside marking, which said, “Made in China.”  In a moment of outrage, her mother put the shoe down and told her to pick another shoe, because she was “not going to purchase a shoe made by child labor.”  Being only 9 or 10 years old, the statement did not make much sense to me, but for some reason, this memory has stayed with me through many years.  It is interesting that this mother knew about modern day slavery in a time of little to no awareness.  I now understand the outrage she felt, especially at the way children, men and women are taken advantage of in their greatest moments of need. 

Most trafficking begins through the recruitment of those in poverty.  In a recent Law and Order episode, trafficking in the United States was highlighted through the story of a homeless man who sent two of his children to work at a nearby farm.  What this father did not know is his children were not used to work the fields (although this would violate labor laws as well), but the children were used as prostitutes.  Although the Law and Order disclaimer reads that the story is fictional, it is a story told over and over again by people from around the world who were recruited into human trafficking for the promise of a better life.   A report by the Protocol to Prevent Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons claims that “a conservative estimate of [human trafficking] puts the number of victims at any one time at 2.5 million. We also know that it affects every region of the world and generates tens of billions of dollars in profits for criminals each year.” 

Many will read this figure and become angry at the traffickers.  Unfortunately, many will read this figure and not even connect it to themselves.  In MTV’s EXIT special: Sold, the narrator states, “we are all links in the human trafficking chain.  Our demand for cheap products, labor and paid sex is the primary reason [people] are trafficked and exploited.”  When we hear the statics we should become angry at ourselves, because our own materialism and self-serving desires create the system that makes human trafficking profitable.  “The sectors most frequently documented are agriculture or horticulture, construction, garments and textiles under sweatshop conditions, catering and restaurants, domestic work, entertainment and the sex industry.”  Consider for a moment: clothes that you are wearing, the food you brought for lunch, and the person cleaning your workplaces’ restroom.  For the majority of us, one of more of these things have been produced or provided as a result of human trafficking.  

Now, I know the temptation is to fall in a pattern of defeat when you learn about this issue, as I have fell into this pattern myself.  Lucky for those who want to support justice, there are people and tools being designed to help us grow in awareness and make better choices.  One student in the Master of Arts in Urban Studies program is an abolitionist in Canada who writes a great blog highlighting issues surrounding human trafficking.  She recently wrote a blog on Organ Trafficking that broadened my understanding even more.  Also, to help you make educated purchases, Free 2 Work has created a smart phone app that  provides a bar codes scanning tool, which rates products on production practices.  If you are moved by this information, please continue to educated yourself, and pay attention to is going in all areas of human trafficking.  Remove your link from the human trafficking and modern day slavery chain!  

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