At former President Bill Clinton’s Clinton Global Initiative this past Tuesday, President Obama said, “Like that Good Samaritan on the road to Jericho, we can’t just pass by, indifferent. We’ve got to be moved by compassion. We’ve got to bind up the wounds.” And for the first time in a while, politicians weren’t placing a spin on things and talking about election issues.
They were discussing human trafficking.
Human trafficking is more than just sex trafficking. It also involves workers who receive little or no pay, workers who are abused and prevented from leaving work and child soldiers in places like Africa. It is a worldwide issue and seems to be growing. It perpetuates violence, crime and hatred. I think we can all agree with President Obama that trafficking is ”barbaric and it is evil, and it has no place in a civilized world.”
It doesn’t take a lot of research to discover that human trafficking is a global epidemic that affects every country including our own. There are approximately 2 million people trafficked each year in the world, and 15,000-18,000 of those are in America. It is a $32 billion industry, and 50 percent of those trafficked are minors.
This atrocious act against human rights doesn’t just affect countries on the other side of the world; it’s in our backyard as well. In 2010, 83 percent of confirmed sex trafficking victims in the U.S. were United States citizens. The average age for girls trafficked into prostitution in America is 12 years old.
And these are just the cases we know about. According to an article published in January, Wolfchase Galleria, Sam Cooper Boulevard, Lamar Avenue ( all located in Memphis), Memphis International Airport, and Tunica, Miss., are among the top areas in the Mid-South for sex slaves.
In President Obama’s speech, he announced that he has directed his Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships to focus its work on human trafficking in our country and abroad. He urged faith communities of all backgrounds to educate their constituents and join “in coalitions that are bound by a love of God and a concern for the oppressed.”
Personally, I think that if there is a cause everyone should be able to support no matter their religious or political background, it is the abolition of human trafficking.
Many organizations have started raising awareness and providing support for victims. If you’re interested, their websites would be a great place to start: Restore International, Abolition International, Invisible Children and Not for Sale Campaign.
Megan Massey is a senior religious studies major from Mount Olive. Follow her on Twitter @megan_massey.