About 10 to 20 percent of Mauritania's population lives in slavery. The government did abolish the practice 20 years ago, made it a criminal offense in 2007 subject to punishment, but it has failed to genuinely tackle the problem, and the practice continues.
Designating a "Human Trafficking Awareness Month" thus not only ensures that issue of human trafficking is visible on the public radar screen, but more importantly mobilizes us to take steps to effect sustainable change in the lives of trafficked individuals across the world.
If we could do half as good a job of creating a meaningful taboo in the United States around buying and selling young people for sex as we do around smoking, we'd be so much further along the road to eliminating demand.
Such bonds can be harder to break than handcuffs, especially when a young person has been told for years that they aren't worth anything, and they have few skills, no diplomas, and few prospects for supporting themselves outside the sex industry.
A U.S. Federal Circuit Court has ruled that customers who arrange for or have sex with children under age 18 are to be considered human traffickers. Wow. That's a big and heavy stick we can use to protect kids who are forced into having sex for someone else's profit.
How would we calculate the value of what we today would call the intellectual property -- in medicine and other fields -- generated by slavery's suffering? I'm not sure. But a revival of efforts to do so would be a step toward reckoning with slavery's true legacy: our modern world.
If we want to fight the sexual exploitation of young people, we absolutely must fight youth homelessness. Kids who don't have a safe place to stay enter a direct pipeline to the pimps and exploiters who recognize their desperation and are waiting to prey on them.
While there are no firm numbers of how much the forced sex and labor trade expands during the week of the Super Bowl, the influx of hundreds of thousands of visitors means more homeless kids may be put at risk. And make no mistake, vulnerable kids are at risk.
Modern-day slavery is a human rights violation hidden in the shadows of our globalized markets. Today, it is estimated that tens of millions of adults and children are living in conditions of modern-day slavery around the world.