The United Nations estimates that 2.5 million people are forced into different types of labor because of human trafficking. About 1.2 million children are trafficked every year and the majority of victims are women. It is also estimated that profits from human trafficking is about $31.6 billion annually.
Many people believe that human trafficking does not occur in the United States, but our country is a destination country for human trafficking and there are about 100,000 American children forced into prostitution. Their average age is 13-years-old. I got to a college in Washington, DC, and was horrified when I learned that one of the worse street corners for sex trafficking – 14thand K Sts. – is just a few blocks from the White House.
The issue can be dealt with at many levels of government – international, federal, state, and local – but many of the anti-human trafficking laws are at best mediocre. Victims are treated as criminals, while their traffickers and buyers go with little or no punishment. Law enforcement rarely has the proper tools to deal with issue. One example, Shared Hope International, a non-profit organization that deals with human trafficking, annually grades each state on their anti-human trafficking laws. So far, no state has received an “A” and only four states have received a “B”. Most of the states in the country have received either a “D” or an “F”, including Pennsylvania, who received a 55.5%. One of the reasons for Pennsylvania’s horrible grade is that human trafficking laws do not include sex trafficking!
Human trafficking must be eradicated. However, in order for that to happen, the issue needs to first be recognized by the general public. More anti-human trafficking laws need to be brought to legislation. There is still slavery in the world. There is still slavery in America. Polaris Project estimates that there are more slaves today than there were at the height of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Shocked? Enough to do something about it? (Call to action)
Shannon E. Cook, AWP Intern