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Sunday is World Day Against Trafficking in Persons

In any given year, there are days that warrant recognition. Christmas, birthdays, Thanksgiving, Labor Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July – all are days we look forward to and typically are excited about celebrating. There are other days we recognize as well but wonder at the need. For example, how sad and horrific it is that there is a World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.

That day is Sunday, July 30, and acknowledges that around the world, there are 21 million women, children and men being exploited, forced into labor and sex. That’s equal to the number of people who live in Florida. It’s not known how many of these have specifically been trafficked, but according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, it’s likely a majority.

Children make up almost a third of all human trafficking victims worldwide, and women and girls comprise 71 per cent of human trafficking victims, the UN reports.

Shocking figures. Shocking crime.

In 2013, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution A/RES/68/192 and designated July 30 as World Day against Trafficking in Persons. The resolution declared that such a day was necessary to “raise awareness of the situation of victims of human trafficking and for the promotion and protection of their rights.” To shine a spotlight on what is too often an invisible crime.

Two years later, the assembly adopted the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, which called for an end to trafficking and violence against children as well as the need for measures against human trafficking. The agenda also strives to eliminate all forms of violence against and exploitation of women and girls.

Despite these actions, human trafficking is the most rapidly growing criminal industry in the world. It’s also highly profitable. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates the industry generates approximately $150 billion per year.

Human trafficking is a monstrous issue and receives scant attention because, being honest, many people just don’t want to know. We don’t want to think about men and women in nail salons possibly being victims of human trafficking or hotel and motel housekeeping staff, or landscape laborers or children being sold for sex.

We prefer to think, to believe that slavery has been abolished. Or that it’s someone else’s problem, but not something that happens in our country or in our communities.

Yet, modern-day slavery is thriving – everywhere, especially here in the Americas.

Consider the case of Hopkinsville, Ky., a small south central Kentucky town getting ready for a massive number of visitors to witness the Great American Eclipse in August. There, advocates, law enforcement, prosecutors, motel owners, truckers and others are on watch for evidence of human trafficking, because according to experts, it’s going to happen.

“A lot of human trafficking will occur with hotels, and the human traffickers will stay in hotels,” observed Sabrina Bishop, whose organization, Pennyrile Allied Community Services/Community Collaboration for Children Pennyrile Regional Networks, recently hosted two training sessions in Hopkinsville to help prevent those efforts during the eclipse.

Similar trainings occur around the Kentucky Derby, Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500, Super Bowl, and World Series – events that draw large numbers of people, where the risk of human trafficking skyrockets. The simple truth is that every country in the world is affected by human trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit, or destination for victims.

So, what can you do? Lots, actually.

  • Get educated. This is an ugly issue, but we all must muster the courage to help end it. Read more about the United Nations’ efforts to combat human trafficking. Start a conversation by sharing your findings with your friends and family on Facebook or Twitter.
  • Leverage your resources. We all have something to give. If you work for a government agency or foundation, set human trafficking as an agenda item and commit organizational resources to address it as we do here at Family & Children’s Place.
  • If you’re a student, plan an event to educate your classmates. If you have the means, donate to an agency like Family & Children’s Place tackling the issue.
  • Keep your eyes open. If you think someone you know may be a victim of human trafficking, call Polaris’ National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

Watch for individuals who lack identification documents and money, are unable to change jobs or homes, stop communicating, or are victims of physical and/or emotional violence.

It’s a day we’d prefer we didn’t have to recognize, but until we all commit to do whatever it takes to end human trafficking, there will continue to be a World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. And the day we can cancel that observance can’t come soon enough.

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