As the fight for equality rages over a person’s chosen sexual orientation, a much larger war is taking place that receives far less media attention. In a very real sense it is a struggle for equality and justice on a scale that this world has not seen sense nations began to throw of the chains off oppression and slavery. This is a global war yet one that is happening right in our back yard. Trafficking women and children for sexual exploitation is perhaps the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. Despite the fact that international law and more than 134 countries around the world criminalize sex trafficking, the problem is getting worse. According to the International Labor Organization, there are nearly 21 million adults and children who are bought for bonded labor and sexual servitude. To put that in perspective, that would be roughly three New York Cities or nearly the entire population of Texas. UNICEF released data revealing that 2 million children are used for sexual exploitation EACH YEAR! At least 100,000 of those are right here in the U.S. It’s happening all over the United States but there are some states doing less than others to be a part of the solution. These seven states are lagging behind the rest: North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Delaware, New Hampshire (for more information on this go to Take Part). Women and children are being taken, sold, and recruited (obviously under different pretenses). How is it this is happening and most are completely unaware of the seriousness of the problem or don’t want to be “depressed by it, in their news feed?” I would say because so many people are part of the problem. Here’s a number: 3 billion. That is how much is made by the adult films industries online alone (about 1/3 of that comes from the U.S.) around the world. This obviously doesn’t account for material not considered pornography and that which is sold on the black market. Why do I bring this up? Because it shows how saturated our world is with lust and perversion, and it’s only getting worse. Even as we speak groups here in this country are trying to lower the age of sexual consent (which is decided by each state, most ranging between 16 and 18). This is becoming more of a world that seeks to satisfy its cravings, and other’s cravings to make a profit. God said that as we approach Christ’s return people will increasingly become lovers of self and pleasure rather than lovers of God (2 Timothy 3). There’s no doubt that this is happening on a grand scale as some people skew the truth to fit their desires or completely ignore it all together. The result is that other people become a means to an end. They become objects rather than people. What has resulted is more slaves than at ANY other point in human history and its happening right under our nose. Trafficking is not limited to the adult industry or the streets, and dark alleyways. Guess what the largest venue is for trafficking…the Superbowl. Not too far behind are other major sporting events here in the US like the Major League Baseball All-Star game. Stats are powerful but stories are heartbreaking. Rebecca was abused from age six and forced into prostitution starting at age 14. She was finally able to break free after 13 years of exploitation. Rebecca recounts, “I was prostituted from 14 till I was 27. I got out because I chose to live. The guy I was with was very violent and I ended up in hospital. I remember the nurse yelled at me for being a prostitute. She sewed me up without anesthesia and I left the hospital. I was paralyzed for 3 days.” You can read more of her story here. In Bangladesh, a young girl falls in love. Women in her country are not viewed as being much more useful than for housework and raising kids so any prospect of love and a meaningful relationship is like gold. Ayesha was lured away from her family with great promises of a future together, but instead she found herself trapped in a nightmare. “When people tell me that women choose this life, I can’t help but laugh. Do they know how many women like me have tried to escape, but have been beaten black and blue when they are caught? To the men who buy us, we are like meat. To everybody else in society, we simply do not exist.” You can read more of her story and several other heart-wrenching stories here. Even now hope exists. Groups such as Equality Now, Polaris Project, and A21 are giving people practical ways to join the struggle against this global phenomenon. These groups work on prevention, rescuing, and rehabilitating women and children who have fallen subject to the atrocity of human trafficking. Actress Angelina Jolie, a long time advocate for children, took advantage of a special platform before the United Nations, recalling stories of survivors she met and calling the UN to action. You can watch a short clip of her address here. The United States Government has also taken part over the last decade and half. The U.S. Department of Justice has prosecuted about 400 cases of trafficking since 2000 (which is when the first federal law to address sex trafficking and labor trafficking in the United States). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services assists victims of trafficking in the United States by funding service programs and through public information campaigns. The U.S. Department of Labor funds anti-trafficking programs overseas and monitors places of employment in the U.S. to identify abusive labor practices. The U.S. Department of State, through its Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking, assesses and reports on the global trafficking situation in its annual Trafficking in Person Report. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has issued over 1500 visas to identified victims of trafficking. However, these numbers are small in light of the growing threat. Human trafficking is no small issue and can easily overwhelm a person with a sense of hopelessness and inadequacy of doing something about it. Please don’t be among those who ignore this problem or downplay it. Everyone can start somewhere and play a role in fighting back. Please join those who have gone before us to become more informed, spread awareness, place safeguards on your loved ones, and perhaps even join up with one of the groups mentioned earlier. We have to fight for justice! I end with this: One day this will no longer be a problem. One day all slavery will be demolished and every sinful desire will be cleansed from this world. One day justice will be fulfilled. One day Jesus Christ will return to set this world right and how glorious that day will be. So as we fight oppression and evil in the days and years to come let us keep our eyes on what will be and set that as our lasting hope.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
(Revelation 21:3-4 ESV)