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Modernized Capitvity: Human Trafficking
Everyday men, women, and children are coerced, abducted, and harbored against their will; ultimately forced into virtually invisible bondage. Human Exploitation functions as our modern form of slavery that has taken residence deep within our society, infecting our local communities. In effort to suppress these crimes and advocate for victims, The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) has initiated its Blue Heart Campaign to stop human trafficking. Their approach: Prevention, Protection, and Prosecution.
By T. M. Steiner
Slavery today takes on a new form. Everyday men, women, and children are coerced, abducted, and harbored against their will; ultimately forced into virtually invisible bondage. According to the UN Global Initiative to fight Human Trafficking, approximations of 2.5 million people are affected by the crime of human trafficking. Obama says human trafficking is a term that has been used to specify a social ill occurring in the "dark corners of our world and hidden in plain sight”. It is the sad truth that this unmentionable act invades multiple populations throughout our world. Human Exploitation functions as our modern form of slavery that has taken residence deep within our society, infecting our local communities. Human trafficking affects every country of the world, as countries of origin, transit or destination - or even a combination of all (UNODC: 2012). In effort to suppress these crimes and advocate for victims, The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) has initiated its Blue Heart Campaign to stop human trafficking. Their approach: Prevention, Protection, and Prosecution.
The Blue Heart Campaign is a great start for a movement to abolish this perversion in humanity on a global scale. It offers the opportunity for a vast number of communities to step up and help their government put an end to human trafficking. Awareness is the keystone element in this movement, especially in the United States. The U.S. is primarily a transit and destination location for trafficking, however in some cases it is also the direct setting of sexual exploitation. Americans rarely suspect their country to have any part in these types of crimes. Primarily we identify human trafficking as an issue strictly affecting countries suffering from extreme poverty. Given these presumptions, it is difficult to believe that, in the United States alone 293,000 children are at risk of becoming domestic sex trafficking victims (Women’s Funding Network 2012). Many do not recognize that the United States’ economy and reputation is the force that drives these crimes, as a result of our lack of awareness, and thus effective protection and severe prosecution.
The Blue Heart campaign seeks to implement change, first and foremost through raising awareness and altering public opinion, and secondly, through additional enforcement of prosecution on criminals committing human trafficking crimes. In order to successfully win the battle against social exploitation, there must be a tougher approach to any involvement in human trafficking. Much of UNODC's work centers on strengthening national criminal justice systems, hoping to achieve more convictions in their endeavor. In effort to put criminal justice officials on the right track, “UNODC launched its second edition of the Toolkit to Combat Trafficking in Persons, [which] provides practical help to governments, policy-makers, police, Non-Government Officials and others to enable them to tackle human trafficking more effectively.” The movement also strives to provide safe havens and opportunities for these affected individuals, and help them communicate with officials in a safe environment. The Blue Heart Campaign makes every effort to avoid “blaming the victim” situations, which are common in these types of crimes.
Moreover, the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Trafficking reiterates the notion that “human mistreatment [not only] afflicts all corners of the globe but also “generates tens of billions of dollars in profits for criminals each year”. According to a report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, “Trafficking often occurs from less developed countries to more developed countries, where people are rendered vulnerable to trafficking by virtue of poverty, conflict or other conditions. Most trafficking is national or regional, but there are also notable cases of long-distance trafficking.” Echoing the reality that modern slavery is occurring in front of our eyes, “the Americas are prominent both as the origin and destination of victims of human trafficking” (UNODC 2012).
An article by Kat Russell posted to the Daily Sundial, exposed that there is an estimated 15,000 to 17,500 exploited victims trafficked into the U.S. every year. Russell found that Los Angeles has become a target hotspot for trafficking because of its ease of accessibility to international borders, and high native and immigrant population. Its wealthy economy also serves as an attraction among traffickers, creating the demand for trafficking crimes (2012). However, despite these daunting pieces of information, there has been some success in the fight against human exploitation. A local win for the initiative against Human Trafficking to be noted is the passing of California’s Proposition 35. In summary:
“This measure makes several changes to state law related to human trafficking. Specifically, it (1) expands the definition of human trafficking, (2) increases the punishment for human trafficking offenses, (3) imposes new fines to fund services for human trafficking victims, (4) changes how evidence can be used against human trafficking victims, and (5) requires additional law enforcement training on handling human trafficking cases. The measure also places additional requirements on sex offender registrants” (CA.gov: 2012).
The passage of the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act follows along the aspirations and goals of UNDOC’s Blue Heart Campaign, working towards prevention, protection and prosecution. Overall, the Blue Heart Campaign has begun with an at risk management approach to human trafficking and is making an impression upon the epidemic. Only through awareness, understanding, and responsiveness will further improvement occur. Vulnerable women, children, and men are affected daily by exploitation, and it is our responsibility to react. A start is to be informed, the next move is involvement.
T. M. Steiner is a third year sociology and criminology undergraduate student at Sonoma State University.
California General Eletion: Voter Guide. 2012. Retrieved 11/5/12. http://voterguide.sos.ca.gov/propositions/35/
Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UNGIFT). 2012. Retrieved 11/5/12. http://www.ungift.org/knowledgehub/publications.html?vf=/doc/knowledgehub/resource- centre/Governments/US_California_SB657.pdf
Russell, Kat. 2012. Prop 35 looks at impact of human trafficking. Daily Sundial. Retrieved 11/5/12. http://sundial.csun.edu/2012/11/prop-35-looks-at-impact-of-human-trafficking/
The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime. 2012. UNODC on human trafficking and migrant smuggling. Retrieved 11/5/12. http://www.unodc.org/pdf/Trafficking_toolkit_Oct06.pdf.
The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime.2012. Blue Heart Campaign against Human Trafficking. Retrieved 11/4/12. http://www.unodc.org/blueheart/en/about-us.html.
Women’s Funding Network. 2012. By-the Numbers: Sex Trafficking in the United States. Retrieved 11/4/12. http://www.womensfundingnetwork.org/AFNAP-toolkit/by-the-numbers.