I am not sure if it is the fact that I just recently saw In the Land of Blood and Honey or if it is the rainy and gloomy weather outside, but I feel the need to add a post on a subject I am particularly interested in: the traffic in human beings.
The truth is that I grew up with awareness about the issue of young girls and women, as well as men, finding themselves in horrific conditions being abused and exploited. At that time, of course, I had no idea of the real dimensions and impact of human trafficking or that the practice would be referred to as human trafficking. Living in an Eastern European country, following the dismantling of the Soviet Union, it was not that hard to hear of many young girls and women being transferred to wealthier Western nations as domestic servants or prostitutes. This was not a topic discussed on the news, however; one found about it through casual conversations between neighbors. Invariably, I would remain under the impression that ‘these women and girls’ deserved what happened to them and had to resort to such fate as they were not qualified for a different vocation.
These still widespread societal beliefs that trafficked women, and men, choose to become what they have become definitely contribute to the continued suffering of survivors. It is, therefore, important to emphasize that trafficked people do not become so voluntarily, and do not inherently possess characteristics that make them only suitable for prostitution, or hard labor, or domestic service. To be successful at assisting survivors, service providers and law enforcement must move away from the idea that “it is their fault” and “they had the choice to do something different.” A major goal of human rights advocates, therefore, is to educate service providers and law enforcement as they are usually the ones that human trafficking survivors encounter first and if those supposed to help them treat them as if they are criminals, survivors will not be able to see the difference between a life of abuse and the “free” life.
Now that I have become involved in this battle, I can certainly easily feel discouraged by the overall apathy of many in our communities and in the larger society, but I am also constantly inspired by the continuous dedication of many modern-day abolitionists who while keeping the global goal in mind, patiently target the problem one small step at a time. I believe that a societal shift is necessary for the success of the mission to eradicate human trafficking and know that this shift will not, and cannot, happen in a day. As such, I see every member of a community as a potential proponent of human rights for all but realize that not everyone is at the same level of engagement. An advocate’s approach toward diverse members of a community, therefore, should be different and outcomes should be expected at different times. In my opinion, while it is important to keep the ultimate goal of complete elimination of forced labor in mind, in order to not be easily discouraged, other advocates and I must focus on one incremental change at a time. Modern-day slavery will not be done with overnight and expecting that could only lead to a feeling of disappointment among advocates.