We can do this individually together
There has always been a line between slavery and trafficking although the line is a blurry one. The word slavery, definition, refers to holding someone in a state of forced servitude. The definition of trafficking is gathering, moving, receiving or keeping human beings by threat, force, coercion or deception for exploitive purposes.
See? They are somewhat the same word although our modern day use of the language has added a few words.
For much of human history slavery has been legal. It was a commonplace business and even regulated by government in some places and eras much like our current automotive regulations and real estate transactions are today. As we all know, in the 19th and 20th centuries, an international movement began to end slavery in all its forms and the result was that there is no legal slavery anywhere in the world.
While the globe is now free of slavery, there is no country in the world that does not have human trafficking so while it appears we may have come a long way, we can also see that little has changed and now technology and the ease of global transport has actually turned what was once a barbaric business into a high-tech enterprise.
Perhaps we have not come as far as we think, or what is scarier…maybe we have come a LOT further than we think.
During the 16th century, Portugal began traveling overseas to Africa to purchase people and take them back to Europe. Other European nations followed suit. The year 1525 marked the first slave voyage from Africa to the Americas and over the course of the next 350 years or so, over twelve million slaves were shipped from Africa around the world with over ten million arriving in the Americas (about 400,000 in North America).
This was, of course, a condoned practice and it was not until 1807 that Britain outlawed slavery. The United States followed in 1820 which was 40 years after the American Civil War.
Slavery really did not stop despite the words of President Lincoln, the Civil War or the official “end of slavery” as the Chinese began to arrive in the U.S. in droves. They were promised lucrative jobs due to the gold rush and the construction of the railroad. As targets of racism, the Chinese quickly became the new low-wage workers in North America as our country officially would “contract” with China itself to ship more Chinese overseas.
This practice and the way that transactions and payments were made all fit exactly into what we now call human trafficking.
In 1875 the Page Act sought to limit the number Asians immigrating into the U.S. and to limit trafficking these people against their will or into “immoral” businesses such as prostitution. The act was successful and all but completely ended the immigration of Chinese women into our country, but it caused another problem.
By the end of the 1880’s, males made up 95% of the Chinese population of the United States which opened the doors to the trafficking of Chinese women once again. This time, a majority of the women were captured, transported against their will and sold into some form of sexual slavery or prostitution; a practice that continued into the early 1900’s.
As America’s trafficking scenarios ebbed and flowed, another problem arose. After there was no trade for Africans to the United States as slaves, white slavery suddenly rose into view as many European women were being enslaved and forced into prostitution around the globe. This capture and transport of these women was generally done using drugs, force or deceit.
The Mann Act (International Agreement for the Supression of White Slave Traffic) was first signed in 1904 and was the first international act of its kind. The act, signed by 13 countries, focused on women and children.
In 1919, the International Labor Organization was formed in order to provide protective standards for working conditions such as pay and hours but shortly, human trafficking (both for labor and prostitution) was back in full swing so in 1921, 33 countries signed the International Convention for the Suppression of Traffic in Women and Children. This signed agreement removed the ”white” phraseology from previous agreements and simply addressed the issue of trafficking no matter what the race.
As the internet came on the scene, control over trafficking lessened with every technology advancement. One no longer had to physically move a human from one place to another in order to traffic them as the internet created a virtual world within which anybody can do “business”.
While traditional trafficking is still a massive issue across the globe and growing every day, online platforms such as Pornhub, OnlyFans and others are perpetuating the ability of traffickers to make their money from the safety of a basement or stash house. One does not have to be on sites like the ones I have mentioned to see potential trafficking situations as even better-governed and monitored sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, WhatsApp and YouTube are all being used for this purpose.
Along with actual digital product distribution, social media is also used in the grooming and recruitment of trafficking victims and in the advertising and sales of sexual services.
In the year 2000 the United Nations recognized modern-day slavery still existed, as well as the possibility of men being victims of human trafficking. The definition was also expanded to include organ harvesting, slavery, and forced labor.
There are many Non-Governmental Organizations that work with governments to combat human trafficking, such as Polaris. Each of these organizations do a different but important job focusing on specific areas of trafficking such as the education of truckers as mentioned in a previous blog and groups that deal only with caring for trafficking survivors.
Herein lies the lesson for today. Not much has changed. As nations we have signed pacts and agreements denouncing slavery and trafficking throughout history and there are specialty organizations and associations that are diligently fighting the good fight, but these pacts and agreements, these letters of awareness and definition have done little to slow the growth of such a disgusting and inhumane business practice.
It is time that we write a new pact and that needs to be within our own selves. We need to resolve in our heart of hearts that each and every one of us is going to become the activist, the investigator, the whistleblower, the reporter and the enforcer. It is time that we say “no more” within ourselves with such passion and anger and resolve that when combined with others we become an unstoppable force of change with no tolerance whatsoever. It is time that as individuals we decide we will report what we notice or observe, that we will self-educate ourselves on what we are looking for, that we will not be afraid to question and then question again.
We cannot allow this to continue for another hundred years. Last week, More than 100 children as young as 13 years were found to have been cleaning dangerous meat processing equipment using hazardous chemicals. This work was being done by a sanitation company contracted by major meat and poultry producers. Packers Sanitation Services Inc. LTD of Kieler, Wisconsin paid a $1.5 Million fine assessed by the labor department after the agency found it employed 102 minors ages 13 to 17 in “hazardous occupations” at 13 meat processing facilities in eight states.
It was found that some underage employees also worked overnight shifts, and at least three sustained injuries on the job. Minors were employed in the largest numbers at two JBS Foods facilities in Nebraska (27) and Minnesota (22), and at a Cargill Inc. facility in Kansas (26), according to the investigation.
The element that was missing throughout history was the number of PEOPLE that tried to make a change. The majority let their representatives write and sign resolutions and agreements that stated this practice was wrong, but by comparison to the whole of mankind, it was a small percentage that actually went out on the streets themselves to stop it.
Trafficking is lucrative so we have a long road ahead of us but I believe if we collectively set our minds and hearts on changing the world that immediately surrounds each of us we will a new climate in which this evil cannot grow or thrive.
I do not write this lightly and know that it will take many task forces and many officers of the law to eradicate this completely, but I also know that in the last few years I have forced myself to become more aware, more vigilant, more alert and more educated and I have already made a difference.