Why We Need to Talk about Human Trafficking
When it comes to drug trafficking, most of us are pretty aware of the issue. Perhaps you are one of Breaking Bad’s 10.3 million viewers, or maybe you are hooked on Netflix’s series Narcos. With drug trafficking as the number one most profitable criminal enterprise, it makes sense that we would be so fascinated by it.
With that being the case, why don’t people talk more about the second most profitable criminal enterprise? Human trafficking is a $32 billion-a-year global industry.
Though many tragedies have occurred due to the drug trafficking movement, it is easier to talk about the abuse of a substance than it is the abuse of a person. Thus, we discuss human trafficking less, which coincides with decreased awareness.
Let me tell you why this matters. One exploiter may earn “as much as $650,000 in a year by exploiting as few as four children. Tax free” (Oakland Local, 2010). With the incentive of this high payout, more and more traffickers are drawn to this crime. But there’s more: they also have lower risk than if they were selling weapons or drugs.
This is because lack of awareness causes victims to be treated as criminals in the justice system. It is easy to see a van full of cocaine as a clear case of drug trafficking. However, holding a few prostitutes hostage provides a situation where the abducted may be mistaken as criminals. This allows victims to be continuously victimized, while those making the profit are left unpunished.
There is a way to slow down this growing epidemic. In 1999, Sweden took note of the human trafficking problem in their country and decriminalized prostitution while the buying of sex remained illegal. Since then, “prostitution and trafficking have drastically decreased in Sweden even as the number of prostituted women has increased in neighboring countries” (New York Times, 2015).
Growing public and political awareness can allow our country to see similar results. Right now, the United States is one of the top destination countries for human trafficking. According to the Department of State’s statistics from 2000, there are approximately 244,000 American children and youth that are at risk for sex trafficking each year.
This is why it is important for us to speak about this issue. The only way it can be addressed is by making sure the problem is well known. We need to stand up for those who cannot do the same for themselves. We will never be the “land of the free” until slavery is truly at an end.
Also published on Medium.