Tragically, human trafficking is an unspoken evil that we have allowed to exist, if not thrive, in the world we live in. Though our excuses will vary and often can be quite personal, at least some of the societal reasons we would claim is being unaware of the problem, believing the problem is too big, too entrenched or too ‘underworld’ for us to do anything about, or shamefully, it is becoming too profitable of an industry in which society secretly consumes the ‘product’.
Being unaware of the problem is exactly where those engaged in it want you to stay. It makes their job easier and more profitable. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Human trafficking is estimated as the second most prevalent illegal activity globally, second only to drug trafficking, and is the fastest growing global crime overall.” And yet, how many of us really know something about it unless a neighbour or family relation has gone missing?
When we consider something too big or beyond our ability to control, we have the tendency to ignore or rationalize it in order to make it more palatable to our conscience. That which we do not know or understand, we are not compelled to act upon. We choose not to educate ourselves about it for we fear what we may learn and that could make us uncomfortable.
And so countless numbers of girls, children and workers suffer untold atrocities, silently hidden away due to our choices. Yes… our choices. Inaction is as much a choice as taking action. And we need to be aware that it is a Canadian problem as well as an international issue.
Is the problem really an ‘underworld’ problem? Consider the sex industry. Are the girls on the street and in the videos simply bad girls, jacked up on drugs willing to do anything for the next hit? If we could only see them as who they really are… someone’s daughter, sister or even mother. How many of them have actually chosen this path? Do we even comprehend how many of these girls have been deceived, forced and/or abducted into this lifestyle? And if we did, would we… could we ignore it as much as we do? Would we and our society continue to ‘consume’ the product? If we understood the true cost being paid to supply the need, would that be enough to cause things to change?
Consider pornography. It would be impossible to calculate how much damage has been inflicted upon couples, families and our society as a whole due to its availability and profitability. How many men have bowed in shame to the grip it has gained on their lives? How many girls and women have had to re-enact something for their partner which made them feel value-less and used? Yet we wrap the industry in the protection of free speech and personal rights? Why has society valued the rights of the ‘consumer’ over the rights of the ones being forced to provide a steady stream of new material? Has history taught us nothing?
The answers are not easy. It is a very complicated problem. In many scenarios, rescuing girls or entrapped workers can endanger their families and friends. Many amazing organizations, both faith-based and compassion driven agencies, are doing incredible works in bringing messages of hope and value to those hidden away, educating, rescuing, and re-training some. But they can only scratch the surface of the issue world-wide. Many more need to join their ranks. Society needs to step up and say this is not acceptable. If we are ignorant of the issue, whether intentionally or not, we need to educate ourselves with the truth about what is happening, and then act upon the knowledge we have gained, regardless of how uncomfortable it may make us feel.
I guess my question to all of us (myself included) is, “What will it take for us to change our ignorance, our lack of outrage and/or our ‘consumption’ of human beings who are being robbed of their lives, who have dreams and hopes of their own?”
It has been my hope that the three articles by Karen McCrae and the piece by Andraya McMaster has challenged you to think on these things. I hope that it has helped educate you a little more on an issue that affects us all. And I hope that it will at least spur some of us towards being counted as those who made a difference in the dark.