Slavery and human trafficking have plagued history since the beginning of man. It exists in the earliest records of humanity, has determined the fate of countless cultures and religions. It has been the silent crutch of numerous nations, and has fabricated toxic notions of racism and discrimination. Though it possesses a barbaric and inhumane connotation, slavery and human trafficking continue to flourish years upon years later. Countless people have been victim to slavery and human trafficking in centuries as recent as the 20th and 21st centuries, but their stories rarely extend far enough to make it into textbooks or headlines.
January is the month of Human Trafficking and Slavery Awareness. Yet, despite this month of awareness, people remain ignorant. As a society, we have muted those who have endured such hardships and terrors by failing to recognize the severity of this issue. Human trafficking is the fastest growing industry in the world, and the second largest business after arms dealing in the 21st century.
An estimated amount of 30 million slaves face the consequences of this age old form of misery in the world today. In the United States alone 800,000 people are trafficked across our borders each year. Human trafficking does not discriminate against its victims. They come in every age, gender, and nationality, performing a variety of different physical and sexual labors. People such as these have endured these cruel lifestyles unbeknownst to the public all throughout history.
During World War Two, Japan orchestrated a horrific example of human trafficking through the exploitation of hundreds of thousands of women all across Asia. These females were generally teenagers and were known as comfort women. They were housed in what were known as “comfort stations”, in which they were raped from a range of 10 to 100 soldiers everyday.
Though this stands as thoroughly disturbing and heartbreaking on its own, these women were additionally starved, beaten, tortured, and killed. This mistreatment was so severe that only 25 percent of these women lived through their collective ordeal. Despite their escape from this appalling system of sexual slavery, the topic of comfort women became a form of taboo. In Asia, they were ostracized by their families and the rest of society. Whereas, in the Western world, the knowledge of this atrocity lacked in the minds of many and continues to do so.
During November 2017, CNN released a video of a man being sold for $400—a price lower than most smartphones. He is surrounded by countless men just like him. They are foreign to Libya; they have fear in their eyes. His auctioneer was once a friend to him and all the others around him, a person who initially promised to help him find a safe way to Europe. Now, the same man that he had entrusted himself to puts a price on his life.
“Does anybody need a digger? This is a digger, a big strong man, he’ll dig,”
In recent years, 450,000 migrants travelled through Libya in their journey to Europe. The trip in itself is very dangerous; an estimated 3,000 people have died while making their expedition to a better life. Now, with their thriving slave trade, Libya is exponentially more perilous than before. However, in their endeavor to migrate to a safer country, these people cannot leave this ‘transition nation’ due to the efforts of the Libyan coast guard and the Italian government. These evacuees’ inability to leave Libya makes them far more vulnerable to theft, rape, murder, or, in this case, slavery.
Libya’s situation will continue to develop and expand if people around the world don’t make an effort to do something. Though many of us are thousands of miles away from the problem, that shouldn’t stop us from extending a helping hand the best we can. Inform others of the asperity of Libya’s crime against humanity. Contact your representatives to demand action. Acknowledge and condemn the multi-million dollars businesses that thrive from the use of slave labor, such as H&M, Nestle, and Haribo. Your conscious decisions about what you buy adds less fuel to this wildfire. Finally, support anti-slavery organizations by donating or volunteering. These include Anti-Slavery International, Free the Slaves, Save the Children, and the Polaris Project.
As a society that thrives under the age of technology and information, it would be a crime to leave an issue as pressing as this unnoticed. Do justice to the National Month of Human Trafficking Awareness. Don’t turn away from the reality of this situation as we did to the comfort women in Japan. Donate and educate to better the lives of thousands.