Look out behind you
Human Trafficking is one of those distant problems that we don’t usually seem to associate with our own daily lives.
“America declared war on human trafficking nearly a decade ago … But the United States is failing to find and help tens of thousands of human trafficking victims in America,” wrote Mike McGraw and Laura Bauer in an article for the Kansas City Star.
The problem, according to the Star, is that the government isn’t watching for it.
“The Star’s investigation pointed to problems that are more systemic: an uncoordinated, inconsistent approach to finding victims; politically charged arguments over how to define trafficking; and a continuing disbelief among some in local law enforcement that it even exists,” as explained in the Kansas City Star article.
Hence the U.S. system to find and help victims of human trafficking is broken.
The signing of Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 by President Abraham Licoln was supposed to end slavery within the country. But trafficking is, at its core, different from slavery in name only. Both rob people of their freedoms and humanity, selling human beings for a profit.
It’s easy to dismiss the issue as something that happens only in faraway places. It’s easy to separate yourself from “those people” who were ensnared in the system, to become complacent in your own safety.
But walking around an airport, a train station or even around campus, you may not be as safe as you think you are.
Recently, I flew to visit my grandma. She said, “When you get off the plane, make sure you don’t talk to strangers.” I laughed and she said, “This is not a laughing matter. Something serious could happen.”
I laughed because the phrasing of her warning brought back childhood memories of parents always say “Don’t talk to strangers,” “Look both ways before crossing the street,” etc.
Perhaps I am too trusting of people, but I generally feel safe walking around an airport, even if I am surrounded by strangers. However, the situation makes you think about those “what ifs.” Just because I am a college student and independent, doesn’t mean I’m not at risk for kidnapping. You just need to be cautious. The occurrences of rape in Amherst puts things in perspective. It didn’t happen to you, but it did happen to the girl next door.
Human trafficking is an umbrella term for activities involved when one person obtains or holds another person in compelled service, whether it is through sexual exploitation or some form of forced labor. These tasks can be done to anyone of any age, be it child or adult. Even the smartest of adults are at risk because although they know right from wrong, one never knows where danger lies. This doesn’t mean that we should be apprehensive anytime we venture out alone, but it’s important to think twice before talking to someone you’ve never seen before or going with them if they propose an idea.
If you’ve seen the movie “Taken,” you know what I mean. A girl is on a great European vacation with her friend, when she gets kidnapped. It’s sad to see what is done to her throughout the movie, but in real life it can only be worse. It’s a PG-13 movie. Lucky for her, her dad is able to save her, but that’s Hollywood.
The United Nations has been trying to find solutions to this world-wide problem. In 2000, the UN adopted the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime at the Palermo Convention, and Palermo protocols were to “Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, and against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms.”
The prestige of the U.N. makes the convention seem promising, but over 10 years have passed and not enough has changed. People break the law every day and human trafficking still happens.
Today’s campaign against trafficking focuses on awareness.. ‘Be Smart, Be Safe’ brochures that describe the tactics criminal groups use to coerce and traffic women, the risks of trafficking, what women can do to protect themselves against illegitimate groups, what victims’ rights are in the U.S. and how women can get help while in the United States are being distributed to citizens.
Through its Global TV Campaign on Human Trafficking, the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP) warns millions of potential victims about the dangers of trafficking. Different countries take different awareness tactics in order to make their citizens more aware, but global ones can be effective.
Prevention, awareness, and education are the first steps to a solution. I think being aware of your surroundings, being careful and making smart decisions are some of the best ways to stay safe.
Karen Podorefsky is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.