Today is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in the United States, a great time to educate yourself on what trafficking looks like in the US. Since we're spending our educational time in India today, here are a few resources to get your US research started while we talk international trafficking.
- Polaris Project has both information and ways to be active in anti-trafficking efforts in the US.
- US Department of State TIP Report (scroll to page 397 to read the US portion) gives an idea of what our government does to protect victims and prevent trafficking.
But without further ado, let's travel to Bangalore, in the Indian state of Karnataka, where Dawn is right now. Like Kolkata, Bangalore is known as a common destination for traffickers to bring trafficking victims from Bangladesh and northern India. The Bangalore Mirror reports that in the past four years, 1,379 cases of trafficking have been reported, making Karnataka the state in India with the highest number of trafficking cases in the country.
Considering that many cases of trafficking go unreported because trafficking and slavery take place in the shadows rather than in plain sight, the number of cases in Bangalore is surely even higher than the reported number.
NGOs ( Non-Government Organizations) work in the area to rescue workers from the brothels, brick kilns, and other types of forced labor. Earlier in 2014, International Justice Mission reported the rescue of 40 people from a brick kiln just outside the city, where children as young as eight years old had been forced to work 20 hour days. Many had swollen hands and appeared to have had an allergic reaction to the clay, but they received no medical care.
IJM reports many other rescues like this, from rock quarries and factories where hundreds of others were made to work. Though this type of trafficking seems different from sexual slavery, the conditions are similar. Women are often sexually abused by those enslaving them, the people are held under the impression that they owe a debt to the trafficker, they are treated as less than human with living spaces that are cramped, dirty, and unsafe; these conditions are anything but dignified employment.
This kind of forced labor is an affront to the dignity of all people: men, women, and children. However, sexual slavery most commonly (though not exclusively) affects women and girl children. Why is the female gender vulnerable to sexual slavery? In Indian society, people prefer sons over daughters traditionally. A Reuters article talks about this preference and the ways the laws and lack of law enforcement perpetuate devaluation of women:
Sex trafficking in India relies on people believing that women are a "burden." Dignified employment, however, gives women a skill, shows them that they are capable, shows society that they are capable, and empowers them to provide for themselves and their families.
India is not the only country that considers women to be less than men. This idea runs rampant through Asia and Africa and can even be seen in western nations (though in more subtle ways). As Dawn continues traveling, we will continue to explore the ways that sex trafficking can be stopped through dignified employment.