Today is Human Trafficking Awareness Day. There are some 27 million people held in slavery in our world today -- many of them kidnapped and trafficked victims: children stolen from their families to work in the cocoa fields; young girls who know of no other life than give sex to men -- girls as young as five or six; women promised a decent job who end up locked inside some rich person's house without papers forced to clean, cook, and provide sex for the husband. People are used, people are treated as objects to make our lives easier or more pleasurable. We all participate in the system. Even if we don't pay for sex -- our cheap produce was picked by slaves; our clothes were sewn by slaves; our dishes were washed by slaves. We are all funding systems of slavery and human trafficking. We are all pimps.
If that pisses you off, it should. Don't roll your eyes or say it's preposterous. Get over yourself and deal with it. Truth is truth, even if it hurts.
So be aware. Be responsible. And help put an end to oppression.
Here are just a few really basic ways to get started fighting human trafficking and modern day slavery:
- Encourage lawmakers to stop punishing prostitutes and undocumented immigrants. Most trafficked people in the U.S. are afraid to speak up or escape because they fear the government -- with good cause. They need to have the freedom to escape from bondage, and we need to be there to help restore them -- not punish them.
- Stop buying/downloading porn. Statistically, a majority of the people who read this site do. Stop encouraging a system that objectifies women and feeds the idea that they can just be used for pleasure.
- Encourage feminism. Many of the girls sold into sex slavery are the unwanted girls of families in cultures that value males. Selling them is easier on the family than feeding an unwanted mouth. If women were seen as equals everywhere, fewer men would use them as mere objects.
- Buy only fairly traded clothing and food. Slavery exists in sweatshops and farms. Recently the U.S. government has rounded up slaves in New York clothing factories, Florida tomato farms, and among Katrina clean up crews in New Orleans. Tell companies with your dollars that you only support practices where employees are treated and paid fairly -- and allowed to be free human beings.
- Support micro-loans and charity for education. Desperation and lack of education create the conditions for slavery to thrive. Those conditions must change if slavery is to end.
Or check out sites like What's Your Response?, or IJM, or Not for Sale, or Stop the Traffick. Get informed and start working for change. The truth is if we aren't doing crap about this, we are complicit in supporting slavery. Let's follow Jesus and release the chains of oppression instead.
Julie Clawson is the author of Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices (IVP 2009). She blogs at julieclawson.com and emergingwomen.us.