By Sharme Johnson
Human trafficking is a worldwide epidemic that has been happening for a long time. Human trafficking is slavery, and more than likely it’s happening around you now. It occurs on every continent and in every country and state. Many people don’t realize how much of a problem it has become, and is becoming.
Twenty-first century human trafficking and slavery is at the worst it’s ever been in all of history. On average, there are about 27 million trafficked people right now, and last year slave traders made about $32 billion, making it the second-most profitable crime in the United States, adding up to more than Nike, Google and Starbucks take in combined. Although slavery is commonly thought to be a thing of the past, human traffickers still force people to engage in awful acts against their will. All trafficking victims share one essential experience — the loss of freedom.
In the United States, human trafficking is a growing problem, even in Washington state. In fact, the Seattle area is one of the main trafficking places on the west coast. Portland, Oregon, is one of the top cities for human trafficking in the entire United States. Miami is No. 1.
People can be and are taken for many different reasons. For example — organ harvesting, sexual exploitation, forced labor and child trafficking. These are only some of the more common forms. There are many, many more.
Trafficking in humans for the purpose of using their organs, in particular kidneys, is a rapidly growing crime. In many countries, transplant lists are extremely long and many criminals have taken this opportunity to exploit this. The operations themselves often take place in unclean conditions, thus risking lives. Since the health of people all over the world is gradually worsening, the necessity for these organs will increase, making this crime more lucrative and widespread.
Human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation can mean many things, such as street prostitution, pornography, sex slavery and sex rings. There are so many people that are misinformed about this business. In western society particularly, there is a commonly held perception that women choose to enter into the commercial sex trade, to become prostitutes or to sell their bodies for money. However, there is a very small percentage of women and girls that go into prostitution willingly. Most of the victims in this trade, and specifically in the case of trafficked women, young girls and sometimes men, are forced into sexual slavery.
The majority of human trafficking victims are forced into domestic servitude and unpaid labor. The money they do make, they’re forced to give to their traffickers and/or owners as payment for their keep, or other various reasons. In many cases, victims are subjected to cruel treatment and verbal threats in order to keep them compliant.
Child trafficking is a huge part of this widespread crime. About 80 percent of the people victimized by human trafficking are women, and 50 percent of them are minors. Children and women tend to be more vulnerable, making them easier manipulate and to control. For this reason they are deliberately targeted by organized groups and traffickers all over the world. Children are taken for sexual exploitation (the average of entry into prostitution is between the ages of 12 and 14), forced child labor, domestic labor, and as child soldiers.
While human trafficking isn’t legal anywhere in world, it’s still happening. Why? Most researchers believe it’s because of the high profits and low risks. Asia, Russia and Africa are places where it’s extremely hard to regulate these crimes. The laws surrounding human trafficking may not be enforced severely enough, or at all, in these places.
Over the course of time, human trafficking has become a much larger and more serious problem. It amazes me that human trafficking is not something we are educated more about as modern day slavery. My research into human trafficking has had a large impact on me personally. I felt extremely uneducated about this serious topic. It’s a growing, widespread and terrifying current world problem, and in order to make a change people need to be more aware and involved in fighting for the cause of freedom.
Sharme Johnson is a student at the Independent Learning Center who is graduating this week. This article is part of her senior project.