Today, my day off, I've chosen to travel to a particular destination. I've chosen what to do and where to walk when I arrived. How long to spend there and what time to return. And so on: the sort of things we all take for granted.
It's a world apart from the news stories we hear from time to time about human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Such stories have come to prominence relatively recently: it was only in 2003 that the United Nations issued its Protocol against Trafficking in Persons, as the scope and extent of the issue became apparent.
In 2009, the UN produced its Global Report on Trafficking, based on the best information available. From the data collected, it concluded that 79% of trafficking is for sexual exploitation; most of the victims are female, but women are also disproportionately represented among the traffickers. 18% of trafficking is for forced labour, but it is acknowledged that this and other aspects may be more difficult to detect and record. Other forms of trafficking are for domestic servitude, forced marriage, organ removal, and the exploitation of children in begging, the sex trade, and warfare. Some 20% of the victims are children but the majority are between 18 and 24. 95% experience physical violence.
Accurate statistics are hard to come by because the number of people enslaved is not known; only those referred to the authorities for assistance can be counted. In the UK last year that number was 1186. The UN estimates that 2.5 million people around the world are enslaved at any given time, and that 1.2 million children are trafficked every year. Some human-rights organisations give estimates which are very much higher.
Last year, President Obama said “It ought to concern every person, because it’s a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community, because it tears at the social fabric. It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name—modern slavery.”
So what can we do? Here are some ideas.
Firstly, as Christian people, we pray. We pray for the victims of trafficking; for the perpetrators; for governments and law enforcers, and the general tide of public opinion throughout the world. Along with our prayers for others, thanksgiving for our own freedom and security is worth remembering too. And maybe, as we pray, we'll realise the need to find out more, and gain greater awareness of this important social issue,
Secondly, we can act. Last year, traffickd.org joined with other pressure groups to use social media to lobby the Philippines Government to adopt ILO Convention 189 - a significant step forward in protecting human rights. Making our voices heard internationally in matters of justice and human dignity has become much easier in the internet age, and that's an example of what can be achieved. Currently the Salvation Army is running a campaign called 'Cut It Out', seeking to address some of the ways in which victims are exploited.
Watch the video. Will you sign up?