While politicians argue about the war on drugs, immigration, abortion and so on, another serious issue is happening right under all of our noses: human trafficking. This atrocity has been referred to as the “modern-day form of slavery” by the Department of Homeland Security, according to The Atlantic.
The largest component of human trafficking is sex trafficking, which is essentially forced prostitution. The most targeted group in the world of sex trafficking is adult women, and sometimes young girls. Soroptimist.org estimates that nearly 800,000 women and children are trafficked around the globe each year. And while these numbers alone are shocking, many more incidents of trafficking go unreported and unresolved.
Despite growing efforts to stop trafficking, it remains an issue that seems to take a backseat to other problems in society. Many people do not want to accept that something so terrible could be happening in their own community. So the issue is disregarded as something not as urgent, because people are content with the idea that sex trafficking is something to worry about only in seedier areas and other countries around the world.
This is happening in communities globally, not just in certain areas. An article in The Indianapolis Star covers the recent bust of a sex trafficking ring in Hamilton County. The article states that out of the nine girls involved, all were from the central Indiana area, and the youngest was only 11 years old.
Oftentimes the victims of sex trafficking are from more impoverished areas of the world; they generally are promised a better life in the United States, but then are told that they must work off their debts and are forced to prostitute themselves.
In some cases the victims of trafficking actually have been arrested on charges of prostitution, and either the police will not believe that the victims are actually being trafficked, or the victims are too afraid of what might happen to them if they speak out against their captors, according to The Atlantic.
Fortunately, this issue is being brought more into the public’s attention by organizations such as Polaris, the Not For Sale Campaign and even groups on college campuses, such as UIndy Keys on our own campus, along with countless others. For example, actor Ashton Kutcher delivered a passionate speech against sex trafficking to Congress on Feb. 15. He also discussed his organization Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children, which works to help identify the victims of child sex trafficking specifically on the dark web, according to wearethorn.org. Kutcher worked with Tennessee Senator Bob Corker to get this issue more attention within the American political system.
The issue of human trafficking should be completely non-partisan, but somehow politicians of the two major parties are using legislation that addresses human trafficking to throw in policies that support their own agendas.
For example, Senate Bill S. 178, titled “Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015,” includes things one would expect to find in such a bill. That includes harsher punishments for those who have committed crimes related to trafficking, plus establishment of a fund to help the victims of trafficking. However, upon analyzing the bill, senate Democrats discovered that language referring to the Hyde Amendment (which states that abortions using federal funds can only be performed in cases to when necessary to save the life of the mother, or when pregnancy results from cases of incest or rape) had been included in this bill supposedly geared toward trafficking victims.
The issue of abortion is obviously controversial, but it should be confined to its own area and not piggybacked on a bill that could save the lives of so many. Although this bill did pass, with almost unanimous support from both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, adding the extra, and somewhat unrelated, abortion policy muddled the bill’s passage and made that into a far longer process than it should have been.
Bills such as these that concern protecting against human rights violations should never include parts that could be used to further politicians’ own political careers and agendas no matter their stance on the issue. It is sad to think that because of the delay of this bill, and possibly others like it, victims may have slipped through the cracks in the system.
I hope Congress will begin to see human trafficking as a larger issue and not just an opportunity to further their agenda. However, it is equally important that the people who elect these politicians know that human trafficking is a real and serious problem so they can elect those who will help put an end to modern-day slavery.