Becoming an advocate

April 5, 2010 at 9:31 pm Leave a comment

First blog post by a member of SCASE! Thanks to SockFoon for contributing . Looking forward to articles from other members of SCASE about their experiences of activism and opinions on commercial sexual exploitation.

SockFoon C. MacDougall, Independent blogger

I have been curious about human trafficking for years: How can human trafficking still happen in the 21st century?  Who are the traffickers? Why do they traffic? Who are their victims? How do they become entrapped? Until recently, commitment to an extremely busy day job did not allow me to seek answers to these questions in any systematic way. My recent retirement afforded an opportunity to begin exploring the issue in some depth. It was then that I learned about human trafficking’s complexity, monetary volume, profitability, domestic and international nature, brutality, perpetrators, and victims, almost always the most vulnerable in society.

You might well ask why I choose to delve into this bleak subject in my retirement. The answer is simple enough. Human rights, equal opportunity, and social justice are values central to my life. Human trafficking, whether for sexual exploitation, forced labor, and/or organ harvest, is the very antithesis of these principles. It violates the fundamental rights and inherent dignity of a human being, reducing the trafficked to a commodity to be bought and sold.

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, a monstrous crime as Ben Skinner aptly puts it. For a sense of this unspeakable horror see, for an example, The Day My God Died, a heartbreaking documentary recounting

“[T]he stories of several Nepalese girls who were forced into the international child sex trade …. The child sex trade is a highly organized syndicate that rivals the drug trade in profitability. The industry has formed a pipeline, which starts in the villages of Nepal and feeds a continuous supply of girls to the urban brothels. Recruiters capture them, smugglers transport them, brothel owners enslave them, corrupt police betray them and men rape and infect them. Every person in the chain profits except for the girls, who pay the price with their lives: 80 percent become infected with HIV” <http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/daymygoddied/film.html>.

The documentary is accessible at <http://www.snagfilms.com/films/title/the_day_my_god_died/>, but be prepared for occasional consumer product advertisements.

Or learn about the horror of modern-day slavery from the efforts of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to bring awareness to the vile conditions under which farm workers slave in Florida’s agricultural industry. The Coalition created a traveling Florida Modern-Day Slavery Museum to convey the abuse of the farm workers <http://www.ciw-online.org>. In an Op/ed piece in the St. Petersburg Times, Bill Maxwell writes:

“The museum, which began touring in Collier County three weeks ago [beginning of March 2010], includes a replica of the 24-foot cargo truck that five field bosses, members of the Navarrette family, used to enslave and brutalize 12 Mexican and Guatemalan farmworkers. Led by Cesar and Geovanni, the Navarrete clan took the workers’ IDs and locked the men in boxes, shacks and trucks on their property. The men were chained, beaten and forced to work on farms in the Carolinas and Florida.”

“A 2008 indictment said the migrants were forced to pay rent of $20 a week to sleep in a locked furniture van, and they were forced to urinate and defecate in a corner of the vehicle. The Navarretes charged the men $5 each to bathe in the backyard with a garden hose. To keep the workers obligated to them, the Navarretes devised drug, alcohol and food schemes to trap the men in debt. The Navarretes were convicted and received 12-year sentences” <http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/columns/modern-day-slavery-museum-reveals-cruelty-in-florida-fields/1081253>.

These are but two compelling examples; there are thousands upon thousands of others.

I decided to do something about human trafficking with what resources that I have. Because knowledge is fundamental to awareness, advocacy, and research, I decided to create Trafficking Monitor <http://www.trafficking-monitor.blogspot.com>, an informational blog on human trafficking to which I post regularly.  To maximize reach, I also tweet the posts on Twitter <http://Twitter.com/SockFoon>.

Trafficking Monitor has a number of unique features: Breaking News and Realtime Twitter Updates keep information current, Country Focus enables country-specific Internet searches, while Human Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery Information on the WWW identifies different Internet search tools, such as Google and Crowdeye and different Google entities, such as Google Scholar and Google Blog, to cast the widest net possible on information on human trafficking. To round out Trafficking Monitor, I identified United Nations, inter-governmental, governmental, and private organizations that fight human trafficking and reports, books, and documentaries on the subject. The Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu (604 BC-531 BC) once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Trafficking Monitor, a work-in-progress, is my first step. I welcome your comments and suggestions and hope that you would pass along its URL.

If you are outraged and troubled by the evil that is human trafficking or modern day slavery, I urge you to take whatever action that you can to help bring this hidden crime to light. It takes a village to prosecute human traffickers and slavers, protect victims and society, and prevent this heinous crime.

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