There is no ignoring the fact that there are more slaves in the world today than at any other point in history. Some of you might even be familiar with the term human trafficking.
After all, who could forget Liam Nelson’s portrayal of a desperate father searching for his daughter in the underground network of European traffickers in the movie Taken?
Unfortunately, these situations are all too real. And like it or not, you are either part of the problem or part of the solution.
Yes, you North American housewife, stay-at-home dad, flight attendant, schoolteacher and high-powered business executive; you are either part of the problem or part of the solution.
Here is a list of four things you are doing right now that contribute to human trafficking and modern slavery.
1. Not Purchasing Fair Trade Products
You know you’ve done it. Standing there in the grocery store isle, you pick up that dark chocolate candy bar (it is your cheat day after all). You saw that little symbol with the words “fair trade certified.” Maybe you even read the little blurb on the back of the label that stated, “Fair Trade USA’s standards aim to bring our mission of empowerment, economic development . . . ”
But you have a budget to stick to. You simply cannot justify forking out that few extra bucks at the register. Besides, what’s the big deal? Is your purchase of one little candy bar really going to make a difference? As a matter of fact, it can.
That one little purchase multiplied by hundreds or thousands of people, just like you, can make a difference. Choosing to purchase ethically produced products sends a message to companies. It tells them you will no longer tolerate the use of slave labor in the production of their products, and if they want your business- they need to stop.
2. Ignoring Suspicious Behavior
Have you ever been on an airplane or in a hotel lobby and though, “hum, something isn’t quite right with this picture”. But, you quickly dismissed it as travel anxiety or blamed it on the airplane food. If the situation involved a nervous or frightened young woman, you might have been looking at a victim of human trafficking.
Victims are commonly moved from one place to the next using everyday forms of transportation. Though you should keep in mind, according to the State Department relocation is not a prerequisite to being considered a victim. Victims can be spotted in hotels, at truck stops, or that rest area you just left.
Not trusting your gut or following through on reporting suspicious behavior to the authorities could be preventing the rescue of a trafficking victim.
3. Consuming Pornography
Pornography, you say, is a private matter. Maybe it’s a hidden addiction you are ashamed of. Or, maybe it’s something you enjoy with your significant other (justifying it by citing a published article that says, watching porn with your partner is good for your sex life).
To each his own, who am I to judge? But did you know that many of the individuals featured in pornography are trafficking victims? It’s true.
Trafficking victims are not just found in dungeon-like brothels, trapped there by violence or threats of violence. They are often trapped by their circumstances and coerced into the business. Many are recruited with the promise of a job as a waitress or house cleaner. Only later do they find out they were lied to and now feel like they have nowhere to turn.
In some of the most heinous cases victims are children, as young as two-years-old, who are being raped and molested for paying customers.
“But that’s not me,” you say. Well, maybe not; but everyone started somewhere. And that girl you’re watching? She might be 14, not 18 like the packaging said. Pornography is a slippery slope that can lead you to do (and watch) things you never imagined you would.
If you are a consumer of pornography, not only are not only objectifying women, chances are; you’re also contributing to human trafficking.
4. Not Advocating for Victims and Survivors
Public activism. That’s not you. Well, maybe it was when you were in your 20s. Now you are a respected businessman, a prudent stay-at-home-mom. You don’t attend public protests.
Guess what; you don’t have to. Public advocating in the new millennium looks much different than it did in the 1960s and 1970s. You can advocate for things you are passionate about by picking up the phone and calling your local representative. You can “share” an article about a survivor’s story on Facebook, or re-Tweet a quote from your favorite celebrity who just Tweeted about modern slavery.
Publicly advocating for victims doesn’t have to look like marching down Main Street holding a picket sign (although, that’s not a bad idea either). Just remember, keeping quiet and saying nothing when you know about the issue makes you complacent in the problem.
President Obama recently stated, “It ought to concern every person because it is a debasement of our common humanity . . . I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking.”
He’s right. It ought to concern every person. There is no middle ground on this issue. Either you choose to be a part of the problem or part of the solution.
So speak up. Use your purchasing power and stand up for the hundreds of survivors and millions of victims of these terrible crimes. Advocate on behalf of those who are robbed of their dignity on a daily basis. Pick up the phone the next time your intuition tells you something isn’t right, and educate others on the issue of modern slavery. (And for goodness sake, stop watching pornography!)
Guest author: Kristi Reed is a freelance writer and photographer living in SE Asia with her family. She is actively engaged in combating global injustice, ending modern-day slavery and documenting current world events. Kristi is currently seeking a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Arizona State University.