January is so many things – a fresh start, the beginning of 365 days of decisions, it’s when everyone makes their resolutions and plans out the year ahead, but you know what else it is? Something that everyone always forgets to think about? January is Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

Photo Source: A21

I’m not sure how many people here know my background, but I have my MA in International Security and I completed my dissertation on human trafficking- amongst other topics. I’ve spent the last 4 years researching, studying and writing about human trafficking – even now, I stay up to date on all things human trafficking. It’s also why I wan’t to dedicate the first Weekend Reads post of 2017 to this cause, to spread the word and share a little bit of my human trafficking knowledge and open your eyes to the realities of trafficking – it’s not just what you see in Taken.

There’s this common misconception, in no small part due to mainstream media and film, that trafficking is solely sex trafficking of attractive young females – that is not true. Human trafficking and further slavery affects every gender, race, nationality and country around the world. It is true that women and children are disproportionately trafficked for sexual exploitation, however men are still trafficked and enslaved around the world for forced manual labour and sexual exploitation. I don’t think anyone would dispute that human trafficking and slavery is a direct violation of our basic and fundamental human rights, yet slavery is at an all time high. Why? Because slavery and trafficking is a largely profitable industry – human beings as commodities are valuable, it’s as simple as that.

Without getting too technical, globalisation and the spread of goods has also expanded the black market which is ideal for trafficking people, making them more valuable than ever before – a simple supply and demand analysis would prove as such. The problem that then comes is why is demand for human commodities (both sexual and labour) so high? Simply everything in our age has been given a price – even a human – so those with means feel like it’s their right making bodies one of most wanted commodities across the globe. We live in a world where sex tourism is both prevalent and thriving, men are able to “order” specific “types” of women, providing details from ethnicity, hair style, eye colour or even the clothes they’re wearing upon delivery.

Human trafficking is very real and it’s nothing new, it’s a topic our ancestors have been fighting since the white slave trade in the 1900s and it’s a problem that effects every country. While there are certainly varying degrees from the U.S. to Thailand that doesn’t mean that human trafficking is not present. The United States is viewed as a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children all for the propose of sex trafficking.

The last two months alone I’ve seen dozens of articles about human trafficking – did you see the Uber driver who called in a potential trafficking ring? Or the truck driver who did the same thing – check out what Truckers Against Trafficking is doing to raise awareness. And those are just the stories we hear about. I remember reading a story a few years ago about a housekeeper in the midwest who was freed from almost 10 years of domestic servitude and when the police questioned the neighbours they had no idea. They had met and talked to this woman multiple times and yet they had no clue because they viewed her as the foreign help – one man went as far to say she was lying, his neighbours could never be guilty of such a thing. It happens more than we want to admit.

All that to say that January is Human Trafficking and Slavery Prevention Month, so spread the word, be aware, look for the warning signs that something might not be quite right and just remember that trafficking can happen anywhere, anytime and to anyone – it’s not just in foreign lands to pretty young woman, it can happen to anyone, any race, any age or any gender. Slavery doesn’t discriminate.

Find way’s to help raise awareness with A21 here