Perhaps the issue doesn't seem that real sometimes. When Liam Nielson takes on a slew of child traffickers and rescues his daughter from the clutches of evil in the Taken movies, audiences cheer without giving a second thought. But for 5.5 million of the world's youth, child trafficking is very real, and when they are abducted there is no superhero parent to rescue them. In fact, sometimes due to abject poverty, the parents are the ones who are responsible for having sold their child.
Child trafficking is the most perverse of crimes primarily because its effects linger long after the actual deed or transaction has taken place. The emotional and physical trauma experienced, especially at such a young age, is almost irreversible. When bought and sold like commodities, the world's innocent children have their past, present and future decimated before they are even able to process what is going on. Every time a child is bought or sold for sex or manual labor, we are effectively ruining our futures.
From each and every angle, child trafficking statistics are gut-wrenching. There are child trafficking incidents in over 180 countries. There have also been reported cases in all 50 states here in the United States. Child trafficking knows no social, economic or race boundaries.
But how can we help solve a crime that has been around since humanity's inception? One theory: taking the focus off of the used and putting it on the user.
Enter what is now being dubbed the Swedish Model, attacking the demand side by essentially shaming johns and threatening them with harsher punishments. A highly controversial bill in 1995 outlawed the eliciting of prostitution -- but not the selling of it. As a result they placed the focus on the abuser and not the victim. Far too often the trafficked girls or children are demonized when the real issue is stamping out the demand. The results were astonishing. Sweden now has the lowest rate of trafficking within the European Union.
This approach is effective especially in the case of child traffickers and the johns who fund their business. Most of these criminals already know that what they are doing is wrong, yet it doesn't deter them because to the world they are simply nameless, faceless criminals hidden behind a litany of statistics. They are merely passing clouds of depravity, doing their evil deeds behind the scenes undetected and unannounced, shedding light on their sheer lack of humanity is the last thing they want. No one wants to be portrayed as a monster.
On a human level these campaigns play on the inherent need to fit in. It's one thing to commit a crime when no one is constantly criticizing you, but it's another when posters are plastered all over the city and PSA's flood the airways ridiculing the act, not the mention the criminal aspect of it all. By cutting out the demand, the industry falls flat and the focus is finally where it should be, on the abusers, not the abused.
That's not to say a psychological approach is all that is needed. There is still major importance on the more practical approaches of surveillance and anti-trafficking agencies. But, combining both the old tenets of practicality with a public education campaign could be the two-pronged approach necessary to bring child trafficking to its knees.
If we band together Child trafficking can be a thing of the past. For more information check out Unicef's film "Not My Life," a poignant chronicle of the plight of many of the world's trafficked youth. Also their latest initiative "End Trafficking," implores various communities to stand up against trafficking and action against this growing epidemic. It's time to take a stand, our future's are at stake.