Human trafficking is perhaps one of the most unimaginable practices in existence in today's world. However, it is real and it is happening even outside my very own doorstep in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Just this morning when I picked up the newspaper, I read the startling news that the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul has been ranked the 13th largest center for child prostitution in the country. Thankfully much is being done to combat sex and human trafficking in Minnesota thanks to the newly signed piece of legislation called the Minnesota Safe Harbors Law. Yet much more needs to be done in this combined metro area of close to three million people, and even a larger battle remains on a global scale.
Nearly no place in the world is untouched by human trafficking. Furthermore human trafficking can occur within and outside of international borders, occurring in a variety of industries ranging from sex trade, to forced child labor and child soldiers. Oftentimes the victims are kidnapped against their will or inadvertently taken from their families, who believe their children are going away to get an education where in reality they are being sold into a life of servitude and slavery inside a brothel.
Two of the lovely little girls I volunteered with in Honduras.
Honduras is principally a source and transit country for women, girls, and boys trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Honduran children are typically trafficked from rural areas to urban and tourist centers such as San Pedro Sula, the North Caribbean coast, and the Bay Islands. Honduran women and children are trafficked to Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, and the United States for sexual exploitation.
According to Polaris Project, an anti-trafficking workforce based in Washington DC:
Human trafficking affects every country around the world, regardless of socio-economic status, history, or political structure. Human traffickers have created an international market for the trade in human beings based on high profits and demand for commercial sex and cheap labor. Trafficking is estimated to be $32 billion industry, affecting 161 countries worldwide. An estimated 12.3 million men, women and children are trafficked for commercial sex or forced labor around the world today.
What is even more disturbing is the prevalence of child trafficking worldwide and within the United States. An estimated 5.5 million children worldwide are victims of human trafficking -- an absolute disgrace. What is even harder to believe is that thousands of these children are within the United States and child trafficking occurs within every single state. Human trafficking cases have been reported in every state. The highest rates reported have been in California, New York, Texas and Florida.
One of the lovely little girls I worked with in La Ceiba, Honduras during a volunteer trip last week.
In order to raise awareness of child trafficking, January has been delegated as Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
UNICEF, the leader in protecting children worldwide, has partnered with American actress Angie Harmon to gain support for The End Trafficking Project. Ms. Harmon is participating in several Public Service Announcements airing in January to help raise awareness of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF's End Trafficking Project. Please watch the video below to see firsthand the issues at stake. It is time we stood up for children worldwide and put an end to the unthinkable practice of human trafficking.
This post was written as part of my work with the Global Team of 200, a group of women bloggers who aim to raise awareness of social issues and change the world. To learn more about the Global Team of 200, click here.