{life} National Human Trafficking Awareness Day

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Today is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Indeed, the month has been declared National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month by President Obama who has been recorded as stating:

We cannot strengthen global efforts to end modern slavery without first accepting the responsibility to prevent, identify, and aggressively combat this crime at home. No country can claim immunity from the scourge of human rights abuses, or from the responsibility to confront them. As evidence of our dedication to a universal struggle against this heinous practice, the Department of State’s “Trafficking in Persons Report 2010″ included America in its rankings for the first time, measuring our efforts by the same standards to which we hold other nations. Looking ahead, we must continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute human trafficking cases within our own borders.

If you have been familiar with omphaloskepsis for a while, you know that Human Trafficking has something we (my family) have become aware of and passionate about. Our zine, TalyaWren, designated an issue to awareness and the raising of funds for Portland, Oregon’s Door to Grace who helps child victims of sex trafficking. We were touched by the truth that thousands of children Natalya’s age, children of these United States, are being sexually exploited commercially each year–not only the impoverished, abused, urban, or of particular color or gender, but any and all have been and are being targeted. And Human Trafficking involves so many more…

What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery where people profit from the control and exploitation of others. As defined under U.S. federal law, victims of human trafficking include children involved in the sex trade, adults age 18 or over who are coerced or deceived into commercial sex acts, and anyone forced into different forms of “labor or services,” such as domestic workers held in a home, or farm-workers forced to labor against their will. The factors that each of these situations have in common are elements of force, fraud, or coercion that are used to control people.  Then, that control is tied to inducing someone into commercial sex acts, or labor or services.  Numerous people in the field have summed up the concept of human trafficking as “compelled service.”  Every year, human traffickers generate billions of dollars in profits by victimizing millions of people around the world, and here in the United States.  Human trafficking is considered to be one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world.–Polaris Project

I found an article on Huffington Post this morning that I would like to share because she (and NPR) are right that Domestic Workers are “always present, but not often noticed.” I would like them to be noticed. Tiffany Williams writes about Domestic Workers, observing that:

Domestic workers often live in the margins, too. As a recent NPR story noted, they are an “always present, but not often noticed” sector of the workforce. So, when they are being severely exploited or subjected to human trafficking in private homes, it is even harder to identify them. This is especially true when most media accounts of human trafficking focus on commercial sexual exploitation.

landmark report released by The National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), a network of 39 membership-based affiliate organizations of over 10,000 nannies, housekeepers and caregivers for the elderly, revealed that the “unregulated world” of domestic work is ripe for exploitation. In addition to being largely excluded from many basic labor protections, domestic workers are exposed to toxic chemicals and hazardous conditions and only 4 percent of workers are covered by employer-sponsored health insurance. 67 percent earn less than the state minimum wage, and “91 percent of workers who encountered problems with their working conditions in the prior 12 months did not complain because they were afraid they would lose their job.”

I know there is a lot to take in with regards to what is going on in the United States and globally, but awareness is an important step–an important first step. I have found Polaris Project to be very accessible source of information and I would encourage you to take some time on the site or a similar organization.

If you have about 10 minutes, I found this 2011 video for Human Trafficking Awareness Day from Polaris Project. Staff members share what  shocked them to find out as well as ideas as to how we could help them end Human Trafficking. [despite the 2011 date, this video and its information (unfortunately) is still quite relevant.]

{image and Obama quote found via not for sale campaign}

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