Tis the season to give thanks to those special people in our lives so in that vein today I’d like to give thanks to Nicholas Kristof.
I’ve been a huge fan of his writing for quite some time, especially his willingness to cover women’s and human rights issues in such depth. I was reminded of this recently when I came across his New York Times op-ed “Fighting Back, One Brothel Raid at a Time.”
Now I am thankful too for Somaly Mam, a woman who has dedicated her life to putting an end to forced prostitution. Sold herself as a young child, Somaly is now an anti-trafficking activist working to close brothels in Cambodia where girls as young as 12-years-old are raped and tortured every day.
Her work is heroic and dangerous. She has received death threats, had a gun held to her head, shots fired at her car, and worst of all, had her 14-year-old daughter kidnapped by traffickers who gang raped her with a video camera rolling. Her daughter was luckily recovered in a brothel and has now joined her mother’s crusade to save other young girls.
Both women are an inspiration, like Kristof who brings their stories to readers around the world. Kristof recently joined Somaly on a raid of a brothel in Cambodia where five girls and one young woman were rescued, the youngest a seventh grader trafficked from Vietnam. The girls were placed in a shelter run by Somaly to recover. The brothel manager is now expected to be prosecuted and the brothel will presumably be shut down.
Human Trafficking: A Global Crisis
Human trafficking is not an isolated problem. It happens in every country, rich or poor, around the world. In fact, it is the second largest, fastest growing organized crime in the world. Around the globe there are currently 27 million people working as modern day slaves.
Here’s another horrifying statistic. 1-2 million children will be sold into prostitution in the next 12 months. In Cambodia, where Mam works rescuing and rehabilitating survivors of human trafficking, at least 30,000 children are enslaved in the sex trade.
These are devastatingly high numbers – depressing really – but with women like Mam and her daughter I’m certain this is a problem that we will overcome little by little as small victories such as these add up.
As Kristof said in his op-ed, “In the 19th century, the world conquered traditional slavery. And in this century, with leaders like Somaly, we can emancipate the victims of human trafficking.”
I certainly hope so.
What do you think? Is an end to human trafficking possible?
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Photo credit: Photo by Augafel used under a Creative Commons license.