To the editor-in-chief of The Collegian:
Realize Human Trafficking Here, Now
The United Nations deems human trafficking a transnational crime, and political leaders have placed this issue with terrorism and drug trafficking as one of the "three evils". So why is it that many still do not treat the issue with the same gravity? Why do we not approach the problem of human trafficking with the same shock as we have with cannibalism? There are 21-30 million slaves in the world today. However, this statistic is only an estimate because there is no accurate method that exists to estimate the number of victims. The dark side of globalization is that it makes trafficking much easier than it could be with less access to other parts of the world. With today's high-speed communication, improved transportation and networking innovations, people can easily buy, sell and transport other human beings.
What is human trafficking? In short, it can be defined as "the exploitation of vulnerability." People may be trafficked for forced labor or sexual exploitation. It occurs both nationwide and worldwide. Gangs and small-time operators moderate it, and anyone from any background can be targeted. However, records display higher victim rates for specific demographics. For example, those who are undocumented are more susceptible to becoming a victim of human trafficking because of their vulnerability from a lack of legal documents. As a result, they are not qualified to search for jobs, acquire licenses or receive proper healthcare. All of these combine to make the perfect ingredient for the trade. Traffickers approach this group with promising but deceiving offers to overcome these struggles. The victims would become indebted and forced into slavery should they get caught in the trap. The victims would then be unable to seek help from the law for fear of deportation. This then leaves them in a helpless situation where they feel as if they have no one to turn to for help. Situations such as this are not unusual.
However, associating trafficking with immigration will not solve the issue of human trafficking. By restricting immigration, it will actually lead to more dangerous situations for the victims in which they are defenseless against violence and abuse. This is because the restriction will force immigration to function behind closed doors. We as people, who are not involved in any anti-slavery organization, can only do so much. But by creating awareness of this serious issue, we are enforcing and stimulating the movement that combats human trafficking. Richmond Justice Initiative and Gray Haven are active organizations in the area of Richmond that strive to end slavery and provide support for those who have been trafficked. With high hopes and influential actions, we wish to see the numbers of those who are trafficked decrease by the end of a few decades.
We are first-year students in Women Involved in Living and Learning. Abigail is an international student from India, and Joanna is from Virginia. In our WILL Colloquium class, we have an action project that requires us to pick an issue to research as well as fight against. We picked human trafficking because it is an emerging issue that many are still unaware of today. Through our project, we have discovered our interest and passion in understanding and engaging deeper in the world of modern-day slavery. Both of us have been accepted in the Human Rights and Modern Day Slavery Sophomore Scholars in Residence program next year with Dr. Datta. We hope that as we continue to expand our knowledge on this issue, you too will do your part as an individual in this community.
Abigail A. Sohkhlet and Joanna Dela Merced