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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Human Trafficking: Still Enslaved

Please welcome back guest blogger, Brittany Browne! Brittany is a freelance writer with Columbus Messenger, and a recent Racial Justice Coordinator with the YWCA Columbus AmeriCorps program. 

Human Trafficking specifically targets particular groups of individuals within our society. Every year, this billion dollar industry exploits thousand of women and children. But even some of those working towards systemic change fail to address the imperative factors that contribute to modern day slavery.

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln gave an executive order for the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that certain slaves be set free immediately. Nevertheless, complete freedom was not assured (see post Slavery By Another Name), and disparity persists today. Similarly, although trafficking appears illegal, it lives on by preying on discrimination and injustice.

According to The Polaris Project, traffickers prey mostly on females, between the ages of 12-14, likely to be from impoverished backgrounds. 

One-hundred and fifty years after the ordering of the Emancipation Proclamation, and one-hundred and forty seven years after the Thirteenth Amendment took effect, here in the U.S. we are still battling slavery in new forms.
“The research and statistics on human trafficking in America are ambiguous, especially in relation to race and ethnicity. We need to explicitly recognize the connections between trafficking, poverty, migration, gender, racism and racial discrimination to adequately battle and destroy human trafficking in the U.S.”
This quote by Jamaal Bell in the 2010 article titled, Race and Human Trafficking in the U.S.: Unclear but Undeniable should be a reminder to advocates of human rights, and specifically of human trafficking, that the more we try to deny the relation of human trafficking, gender, poverty and race, the more we will continue to fight in vain for the rights of these victims.

If resolving racial discrimination, gender inequality, poverty and class issues remains uncomfortable in our daily discussions (and thus we dismiss the conversation), where is justice truly being served?

Again from Bell: “Seventy-seven percent of victims in alleged human trafficking incidents reported in the U.S. were people of color, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics Report. An example of BJS's ambiguity is that 747 out of 1,442 reported incidents recorded no racial or ethnic origin.”

Everyday in our society, it is obvious that we contribute to sexual exploitation by allowing strip clubs, massage parlors, and pornography to be present and active. In similar ways, we participate in labor forced-trafficking through our need for maids within in our homes, and participate in supporting sweatshops through our material greed for the latest technology and gadgets. Not to mention the profits that are now being gained in the U.S. prison system by inmates for below minimum wage is another form of human trafficking (but, I suppose that is another blog post).

Furthermore, The United Nations recently posted an article through USA Today that discusses the lack of money and political will being put into spending to combat human trafficking, making it even more questionable as to how important the issue is on the agenda of our country. It was stated that there is a lack of strong legislation and police training to combat trafficking. Even in the United States "only 10 percent of police stations have any protocol to deal with trafficking.”

M. Cherif Bassiouni, an emeritus law professor at DePaul University in Chicago said, “We must change attitudes of male-dominated police departments throughout the world who place this type of a crime at the lowest level of their law enforcement priorities."

Could it be that this is not a high priority because the victims of human trafficking are not identified with the male gender, caucasian race and upper-class economic status?

Isaiah 43:8 says, “Lead out those who have eyes but are blind, who have ears but are deaf.”

When we open our eyes, we will see that human trafficking, both sexual exploitation and labor-related, is discriminatory in gender, race and class.

The way we choose to engage ourselves in the advocacy and implementation of systemic change should be directly related to social justice issues regarding poverty, gender equality, and racism. It all works together in the recruitment, and maintenance of a 32.4 billion dollar industry that is destroying communities around the world.

Ask yourself, how are you consciously or unconsciously contributing to human trafficking statistics? By avoiding conversations about how trafficking issues relate to gender, poverty and race, how do we perpetuate the problem?

Decades later, we are still enslaved. So, when will we really be set free?


  1. Human trafficking is one of this world's greatest scourges which should be fought on many fronts. One  organization doing a great job is International Justice Mission ( .  They don't work in the US, but most of the 27 million enslaved persons don't live here. 

  2. Indeed! IJM does great work! Thanks fro bringing them up!


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By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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