A little something on human trafficking

Michelle Lim Li Ann of Project Liber8 shares her initial doubts as to what ‘normal’ people can do to effect actual change against the trafficking of humans, and later posits her thoughts on effective action in light of the bigger picture.

Dear reader, this is an article which has been quite a challenge for me to write. Mainly due to the fact that I did not care about the issue of trafficking of humans… enough.

I spent days thinking about what to write and how my approach should be like. I knew that I didn’t want to only blab on about the facts of human trafficking because, if anything, this shouldn’t be just another Wikipedia-like page. Besides, I felt like I couldn’t write a heart-felt and emotional article on the victims of human trafficking and their excruciating experiences because, well, I have not met one. So with no inspiration, I thought to just stick with the typical “What is *insert subject here*” type of article, and HAH, surprise surprise, I still didn’t know what to write.

In the midst of it all, the job of writing such an article became a chore. I just did not have the passion and drive to truly want to tell people that “Hey, human trafficking is bad and here’s why….” because seeing that I do not care about the issue enough, I don’t think I should be telling people to care when I myself couldn’t really be too bothered about it.

Being cynical, my thoughts on human trafficking are these;

1) It’s an international crime which is like a game for big-time players. What can ordinary people do about it?
2) It is too complex and can’t be easily solved. What can ordinary people do about it?
3) This is a job meant for the government and other official authorities. What can ordinary people do about it?

Therefore, feeling that ordinary people can’t really do much about it, I thought “Omg, what’s the point? It’s not like we can totally stop human trafficking.” Thus, leaving me in a state of I-couldn’t-care-less.

Then, it hit me. Through my cynical eyes, I failed to see an additional problem, one which I myself had been contributing to;

4) Not enough people care about human trafficking.

…and this was a problem that ordinary people can do something about. It was a problem that I could do something about.

As I have reiterated, this article has been extremely hard to write. With that, I asked myself – Why? Why should I care? Why should more attention be given to this issue? What change will mere attention bring? Most importantly, what can ordinary people do? And this is what I have managed to come up with.

First things first, it is important to know what human trafficking really is. It is a cruel activity which exploits human beings – be it through forced labour, sexual slavery, or organ trafficking. It truly is a form of modern-day slavery, for to the victims, freedom is not a right but a mere dream or fantasy. It is real, it is happening, and it occurs all around the world. No, it does not only happen in third world counties or in developing countries – it occurs everywhere. This makes human trafficking what it is – a crime. It is not a series of possible events which makes up for a good storyline in a Hollywood blockbuster nor is it a PR stunt for companies and celebrities to pull just by stating that they do not support human trafficking. It is a crime against humanity.

Here’s a fact about human trafficking; being the third-largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world, there are an estimated number of 27 million people who are enslaved today. Big number, right? The population of Malaysia itself is about 29 million. But, you know what? That figure can be 27 million, 27 thousand, 27 or even just 1.

The issue is not the figure; the real issue here is what the figure represents – the victims, the people who are the most affected by it.

It doesn’t matter how many people are being enslaved, what matters is the fact that people ARE being enslaved, and this very fact alone should be sufficient to sound the alarms. The fact that 27 million people are affected by this only amplifies the urgency to stop it.

Now back to the question of ‘Why care?’ I guess my answer to this goes back to the very nature of human trafficking and who it affects. Like cancer, human trafficking judges no one. Age, gender, status, race, and religion are nothing – as the only thing that matters is that you are alive and that you can be exploited.

It is scary how anyone can become a victim of this heinous crime, yet not everyone can be saved. Unfortunately, this is mainly because people just don’t care. By not caring about the issue, people have no idea what human trafficking is really about, how it works, who are the victims and what are the effects. In the eyes of the public, these victims of human trafficking then suddenly become mere illegal immigrant workers, or cheap, dirty prostitutes on the streets – nothing but a nuisance. When found by the police, rather than words of comfort, only a statement of arrest is spoken. To the immigrant victims, when rehabilitation is needed, only a letter of deportation is given.

I guess the thing that rattles me the most about this is, what if it was me, or someone I loved? Think about it. What if you or someone you loved ended up in such a dire situation? Yet, no one cared nor is any help offered.

In addition, there is also the matter of human rights. Everyone is entitled to their basic human rights which include the freedom from torture and slavery. These basic human rights act as a blanket which offer equal protection to everyone. In turn, we have to protect our rights when they have been abused. Therefore, how can we stay ignorant to the fact that trafficked victims are slaves who get tortured on a daily basis?

If their rights can be so blatantly abused, and we say or do nothing about it, does it not indirectly show how little we strive to fight for our rights?

Their rights are mine as well as yours. These are our rights which we, as the people, have to always uphold and protect regardless of whether we are the victims of slavery and torture or not.

At the beginning of this article, I spoke about my views on the problems with human trafficking and found them to be huge issues as I felt ordinary people couldn’t do much about it. I have to now say that I was wrong as to have ever used the phrase ‘ordinary people’. No one is ever just ‘ordinary’ as anyone can make a difference. We are the people, and together, we can bring the change we want to see.

One of such changes should be made in respect to human trafficking and this can be done by merely giving it the attention it so desperately deserves. It is time for its seriousness to be acknowledged as this needs to be dealt with. Human trafficking is not your average crime. The average crime involves theft and robbery of material things. Human trafficking involves the theft of a person’s freedom. It involves the act of turning humans into disposable and exploitable ‘goods’. However, despite all the damage it is doing, human trafficking is considered to be a low-risk crime – and that needs to altered.

As a start, what we can do to slowly fix this issue is to be aware of it and to give it the recognition it deserves as an important issue in today’s world. Recognize it as the brutal crime that it is, and not just as some public service announcement. Know the issue and understand how it works and who it affects. Be mindful as to its occurrence and no longer ignore it. How will this help? Well, there is a first step to everything, isn’t there? And for human trafficking, such awareness is the first and most vital step.

Never forget that we are not ordinary. No battle is won overnight, but what we can do is start the fight by making the small but necessary changes. Our attention to issues grabs the attention of the government and authorities; furthermore, this is something else that we should be directing them to, seeing that legislations should be tighter with less loopholes and better protection should be provided for the victims.

Dear reader, when I had been given the chance to write this article, I didn’t care enough about the issue. Human trafficking was just another problem in the world and I had no 2 cents to offer. However, my opinion has changed for the better, and I hope yours has as well.

 

To find out more on human trafficking, what Project Liber8 does and how you can help, follow them here:

www.facebook.com/ProjectLiber8
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Posted on 9 September 2012. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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3 Responses to A little something on human trafficking

  1. One person can make a difference. I was trafficked for 8 years on the streets of New York when I was a child. I now speak and share my story and the public. Each time I speak someone comes up to me afterwards and says something like, wow I did not know that this is happening right here, so I made a difference. I also write a column for the Washington Times newspaper, called telling it like it is, and I write on everything related to human trafficking, I get comments there also, keep up the good work

  2. wes

    Good article, initial part addresses my prior scepticism about the effectiveness of the entire purpose of the project itself towards the issue.

    Be that as it may, i still think raising awareness, even as beginning milestone still doesn't do justice to the issue at all.
    mainly, it does nothing to help the cause.

    the entire premise of your rationale is, if we raise enough awareness, that eventually the Government is gonna hear us out, hold hands together – kumbaya, work together and vanquish the evil human traffickers. Rely on the government to address the issue? Naive.

    The entire world agrees smoking and drugs are bad. Its still here, rampant still.

    Talk to most sex workers in S.E.A as well as foreign workers, most come from very poor farming families. Most of them, in fact are pressured from own family to go out to city and work. Some willingly, some unwillingly, and some unwittingly (and thus categorized as human trafficking.)

    A simple attempt to look deeper into the issue will conclude you with the root problem is NOT lack of awareness of people. its NOT that the government is ineffective in addressing the issue. Its the income disparity, its economics, its the evergreen demand and supply nature for sex and low cost labor.

    I'm cynical but i have the advantage of being more realistic here. Throughout history, world awareness never happen, never changed anything. Government is never the good guy, always self interested. Slavery always existed, just under different names. there will always be prostitution (legal – marriage, or illegal, the cheaper and better option)

    Therefore, a more responsible and effective way to address this cause you're pursuing is to

    ease the pain – set up rehab programs for human trafficked victims
    prevent the event – create legit jobs so they don't have to resort to pressure from their own society
    raise awareness against scam traffickers – just kidding. it doesn't work like that.
    provide education to the super poor – so they have a future and imagination to have better prospects, build confidence
    be the ONLY renegade in the police and politics and try to change in policy- good for a lethal weapon sequel plot, not so achievable in real life
    expose the perpetrator through self journalism or with big media – until become death target from mafia, corrupted officials and your own government. :)
    raise true awareness about it by making an indirect movie about it, then write a book about a more accurate version of it – like the movie "taken", you'll get to raise a lot of money at the same time at least. :D

    that's all.