Can We Have A World Without Slavery?

Recently, on The Human Trafficking Project (HTP), Jennifer Kimball, a contributing writer, initiated a discussion about whether there can ever be a world without slavery.

She raised the questions:
  • What concrete steps, short-term and long-term, would you advocate for/implement if you could?
  • What do you think is working in the anti-trafficking movement? What isn't?
  • What are the most pressing needs (prevention, victim/survivor services, prosecution, education, etc.)?
  • How do we allocate scarce resources among these needs effectively?
  • What would a world without slavery look like?
  • What other issues are interrelated with human trafficking? For example, is global climate change an anti-trafficking issue? What does that mean for the anti-trafficking movement?
  • What roles/responsibilities do we have as people with awareness of this issue?

Slavery and exploitation are not new issues. It continues despite the fact that 117 countries are now signatories and 133 countries are party to the Palermo Protocol of the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime. Despite popular misconceptions, human trafficking victimizes men, women and children for a wide range of labor and sexual purposes. The very term 'human trafficking' often elicits a very limited image of the trafficker, the victim and the exploitation that is unhelpful and conducive to the continuation of the crime.

Huff Post contributors Robin Sax and Cameron Sinclair took up this issue recently. Sinclair correctly points out that the trafficking of men and trafficking for labor purposes rarely addressed. More often, when people think of trafficking, they think of the young female victim who has been exploited for sexual purposes. This is one face of trafficking, but it is among many, many more.

The international community has not even settled on an exact definition of human trafficking nor an exhaustive list of indicators of the crime. Can we come up with an exhaustive list? This is an elusive question considering how much we need to stress that trafficking is not about the physical or ethnic makeup of a victim, but rather about the exploitation a victim endures. And traffickers continue to become more and more creative with the way they exploit their victims.

Justin Hakuta and I launched HTP a little over two years ago with a desire to share the information we were gaining through our Fulbright research in the Philippines and Ukraine on the response to human trafficking in each country, respectively. Over 700 posts later, we've expanded to a voluntary team of over a dozen members and are working towards the discussions that need to happen around these questions as they are central and important to the understanding of human trafficking and the efforts to combat it. It's not only important for practical or hopefully inspirational purposes, but also for serving as a means of keeping anti-trafficking work grounded in a global reality that slavery is not just a modern issue that holds people's attention in the short term.

Exploitation permeates and affects many aspects of our lives with or without our knowledge, from the things we wear to the places we eat to the tourist spots to which we travel. The more aware we are of its existence and how it continues to thrive in a world publicly less tolerant of its presence, the better off we are at fighting it.

We at HTP are excited about the opportunity to work with Causecast and The Huffington Post to share new developments in action and issues related to human trafficking. Please visit our website here.