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Extent of human trafficking is shocking

By Elizabeth Held
Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Atlantic ran an article yesterday under the headline “Island of Lost Children.”

The first paragraph caught my eye: “In Haiti’s unstable post-quake atmosphere, at least one industry is poised to flourish. For those who buy and sell children for sex and cheap labor, Haiti is ripe with opportunity.”

I was immediately struck by the last line. Human trafficking has been a pet issue of mine for years.
The facts are shocking.

The United States outlawed slavery in 1864, the British Empire in 1833, France in 1848 and Peru in 1851. Slavery is no longer legal anywhere in the world (Mauritania has some lax rules.). Yet, groups like UNICEF and Amnesty International estimate that there are more people living in slavery, now in 2010, than ever before. This is largely because of human trafficking.

The U.S government estimates that 600,000 to 800,000 people, mainly women and children, are trafficked globally each year.

Organized crime members often lure victims from their home countries with empty promises of a well-paying job in an affluent country, the possibility of receiving an education or marriage. Some victims are kidnapped and more still have parents who sold them to support remaining family members.

Victims then leave their homes, normally in cramped living quarters with scarce amounts of food, to embark for a new country. The New York Times once reported that traffickers from Honduras routinely gang raped the women they smuggled and in some cases forced the women into dangerous back-alley abortions.

Once victims reach their new country, their lives do not get easier. They are forced into prostitution, pornography or bonded labor.

An estimated 27 million people are living in slavery throughout the world.

Last time I wrote about human trafficking, for my high school newspaper, New York State had not yet abolished trafficking. Fortunately, that’s changed now.

But its still a problem and still something we should be aware of. No one deserves to be enslaved.

 
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