Human trafficking has become a widely recognized term in the last decade. An influx of information on labor and sex slavery, both in America and abroad, has caused government legislation and non-governmental organizations to arise against it, as well as movies and press to be produced to spread awareness. A vast number of people have dedicated their lives to eradicating this injustice.
Houghton College senior Alice Browning studied human trafficking and its various forms of exploitation during a study abroad in Thailand and Washington, D.C. Browning’s connections through Houghton have allowed her to connect with various individuals foundational to the anti-trafficking movement who have catalyzed her efforts against human trafficking.
“The more I understand how human trafficking works, the more I believe any estimate is extremely rough at best,” said Browning. “We do not know how many people are being trafficked. It is incredibly difficult to even define who is a trafficked victim, and this means we do not know if the problem is being diminished.”
Browning spent the 2011 spring semester in Thailand with Go-Ed through Houghton College, and saw firsthand how vulnerable many native people were to being trafficked.
“Trafficking is a rampant problem in Thailand, although they have pristine laws against it. A growing demand for prostitutes has led to trafficking many women and children for sex,” said Browning. “Thailand is also a huge sex tourist destination, where tourists come to specifically to purchase sexual services. It has been incredibly eye-opening and life changing to not only read about these issues in a book, but to meet young girls and boys who have been used and abused.”
Browning noted that human trafficking is not only a grave human rights violation, but a high- profit, low- risk industry where traffickers stand to make a lot of money.
This summer, Browning spent several weeks in Washington, D.C. to network with various anti-human trafficking professionals, including representatives from World Hope International (the official Christian relief and development partner of The Wesleyan Church), World Vision, Polaris Project, and International Justice Mission.
In order to take steps toward eradicating human trafficking, Browning urges others to know where their purchased goods come from, thus not to consume the product of another’s exploited efforts. She highlights the importance of abstaining from and speaking out against pornography, because the virtual objectification leads to the physical objectification of a human being. Finally, she inspires others to know their neighbors, and seek out those who are pushed to the margins of society, as they are most vulnerable to trafficking. Trafficking happens in America as well as in developing countries.
“I believe that all people have to learn to work together on this issue,” Browning said. “Churches, schools, NGOs, and governments must band together to share information in order to diminish this trade. The international crime networks are already in place. They have excellent communication, and they are making huge profits. We will have more of an effective impact against human trafficking when we begin to network in our own communities.”
Danielle Brenon ‘12