National Human Trafficking Awareness Day
National Human Trafficking Awareness Day on January 11 raises awareness of the persistent issue of human trafficking. Though the entire month of January has already been recognized as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, this day is specifically dedicated to awareness and prevention of the illegal practice. This holiday is also separate from the World Day Against Trafficking Persons, as established by the United Nations. Since the Senate established this day of observance in 2007, it has drawn massive public support from individual donations to government-organized events. The horrific injustice of human trafficking can affect people of any race and background, and on this day we are all called to fight human trafficking wherever it exists.
HISTORY OF NATIONAL HUMAN TRAFFICKING AWARENESS DAY
Human trafficking, according to Unitas, is the exploitation of another person for labor, domestic servitude, or commercial sexual activity by force, fraud, or coercion. It is also the act of enslaving or exploiting unwilling other people. Unfortunately, slavery in some form has existed for hundreds of years – and persistently exists today, though many are unaware of this fact.
Most are familiar with the slave trade of the 1400s and beyond. Instituted by Europeans, the slave trade captured and held in bondage millions of Africans from across the continent, eventually selling them for labor or sexual exploitation. This practice flourished in countries like Spain, the growing United States, Holland, France, Sweden, and Denmark for centuries.
It was not until the late 1700s and 1800s that governments began to declare the Transatlantic slave trade illegal, with Great Britain setting the example in 1807 and the United States following in 1820 – the slave trade became a crime punishable by death, but many years passed before more widespread freedom was achieved. The Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 largely put an end to slavery, and the Thirteenth Amendment of 1866 abolished it.
It was after the recognition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade as immoral that governments began to discuss “white slavery,” the term used at the time for sexual human trafficking. 1904 saw the passage of the International Agreement for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic, written into law by European monarchs, and 12 countries signed the International Convention for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic. The League of Nations soon changed the name from “white slavery” to “traffic in women and children.”
The late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries saw gains for the movement against human trafficking. In 2000, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act addressed modern-day slavery, becoming the first federal law to do so. The American charity group Free The Slaves, part of Anti-Slavery International, was also formed. In 2007, the United States Senate ratified the resolution establishing January 11th as National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. In 2010, President Obama dedicated the entire month of January to awareness and prevention of human trafficking. Today, there are over 50 established organizations that globally combat this illegal practice, and more awareness has been raised than ever before.
HOW TO OBSERVE NATIONAL HUMAN TRAFFICKING AWARENESS DAY
1.Donate to Anti-Slavery Organizations
Any contribution helps, and what anti-slavery groups can do with your money will undoubtedly be meaningful. Some organizations consider donating to include Agape International Missions, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, and Polaris.
2.Volunteer to End Human Trafficking
Any anti-slavery organization in your community, a club on your campus, or professional establishment nearby would be grateful for your help. Endslaverynow.org offers an Antislavery Directory to help you find organizations that you can donate your time to if purse strings are tight.
3.Foster Education on Human Trafficking
There are many misconceptions about human trafficking today – so get educated and help others do the same. Books and documentaries can illuminate many aspects of modern slavery, including “Understanding Global Slavery” by Kevin Bales and “A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery” by Benjamin Skinner. We also suggest attending a community training, starting a library of anti-trafficking resources, or hosting a screening or book club of informational material.
WHY NATIONAL HUMAN TRAFFICKING AWARENESS DAY IS IMPORTANT
A. Knowing the Signs Can Save Lives
Being able to suspect or identify a victim or perpetrator of human trafficking can save lives. The industry victimizes not only the millions of people directly involved, but their families, friends, and loved ones. There are many resources to help you spot and stop human trafficking – for a good list of potential red flags, check out the Unitas website on spotting human trafficking.
B. It is a Growing Global Problem
It’s hard to wrap the mind around the idea that over 30 million people are likely enslaved as you read this – but even harder to consider that the number is growing. This lucrative illegal industry ruthlessly recruits and kidnaps more at-risk individuals and victimizes them for personal and financial gain, so the sooner awareness can be spread the sooner we can combat the issue.
C. It Can Affect Anyone
Many think of slavery as a problem of the distant past or of distant countries, but it exists across all continents and ages. Though some groups, like women and individuals from poorer areas, are more at risk, the reality is that human trafficking can affect anyone – we must all work together to eliminate the risks we all face.
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