Opinion: It’s Time to Stand Up and End Human Trafficking

What has now become the largest growing industry in the world, human trafficking unfortunately and realistically haunts the dark corners of societies around the world. Human trafficking involves the exploitation of a person into forced activity against their will. This activity could be forced labor, violence, prostitution and many other forms of exploitation. Today, trafficking is often referred to as “modern day slavery.”

According to the International Labor Organization, between 20 million and 40 million victims are currently trafficked throughout the world, and a very significant percentage of cases go unreported. With that being said, human trafficking is all but swept under the rug in terms of awareness and political influence.

One significant human trafficking network was recently exposed and brought to the attention of the public. Financial advisor Jeffrey Epstein was arrested on charges of sex trafficking and was accused of manipulating hundreds, if not thousands, of girls. Many of Epstein’s victims were minors used for sexual favors. They were even used to recruit other girls to join in Epstein’s framework in return for cash. He used the wealth he acquired from the banking and finance sector to build an infrastructure of sex trafficking that involved a private island, large houses and airplanes. 

In 2008, Epstein and his lawyers reached a plea deal with then-Palm Beach County State Attorney Barry Krischer in order to avoid federal prosecution and any harsh punishment. Although the prosecution had evidence and witnesses proving Epstein’s guilt, Epstein walked away with a slap on the wrist and without any major public outcry. The simple question that comes out of that situation is “how?” How could such an obvious case of human trafficking go unpunished?

In the case of Jeffrey Epstein, his massive extent of wealth and power influenced this initial outcome, as he obviously committed disreputable backdoor deals to maintain his network of trafficking even after being caught. In the same way that Epstein initially escaped charges, many other trafficking networks avoid punishment through the power they have attained over not only their victims, but also forces and agencies intended to stop them. 

Epstein was eventually convicted of his crimes and died while in prison. His assistant Ghislaine Maxwell is facing charges for her role in making the connection between Epstein and the young women he exploited. 

Human trafficking is an industry that requires stealth to operate, and it operates with high risks but high rewards. Therefore, these leaders of this corrupt framework have learned to avoid interference by high-level officials and have managed to operate without intrusion.

Although there are organizations that exist with the mission to bring an end to human trafficking, they receive very little assistance from most governments. In today’s world of governments and unions, everyday people must play the political game in order to achieve legitimate change. Making an Instagram post with good intentions of bringing awareness about human trafficking is great. Protesting on the streets to stop human trafficking is great. The way you achieve true change, however, is by commanding our government officials to fight against this vile and disgusting industry. 

Traffickers will continue to enslave millions unless they are stopped by a stronger force. Asking human traffickers to stop will not phase them. While past presidents and Congressional officials have signed executive orders and created small task forces, none have made a legitimate point of focus to stop human trafficking. We as citizens can help stop human trafficking only by rigorously gathering our resources and urgently commanding our governments to act.

Keaton Browder is an Opinion Writer.

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