GWAS Perspective: Counting the human cost
Like watching Jack Vidgen on Australia's Got Talent, this guest post by 17-year-old Tasmanian schoolgirl Lauren Hesp of Word Taxi took my breath away...
Last night, there was an expose on live cattle trafficking from Australia to Indonesia on ABC1 program Four Corners. This is what I have discovered: around 500,000 Australian cattle are sent by ship to Indonesia each year, where they are fattened and then sent to the slaughter. Given the high demand for beef, the trade values at $300 million. The cows are kept in atrocious conditions; they are abused and then die slow and hideous deaths.
I understand that it is shocking. According to an ABC News article, the Australian government is now considering banning live animal exports. We are a nation in uproar about a trafficking trade worth $300 million, with 500,000 victims. The outrage has been expressed through all kinds of social networking and media. But there is another trade that I know about. One that earns $32 BILLION per year. One that has 27 MILLION victims.
Slavery exists. Let me reiterate those statistics. Every year, 27 million people are sold. Sold. That's more than every person in Australia, and 1.4 million of those are sold into slavery for the sex trade, including 800,000 women and girls trafficked across international borders. They are kidnapped, taken to foreign countries and are repeatedly raped and beaten. Sexual exploitation alone generates $27.8 billion a year. Somebody becomes a victim every 30 seconds.
I understand that it all sounds like numbers. If it does, watch this and this. What we have got to realise is that while 27 million victims sounds colossal, we have to look at them one by one. It could be your sister, your brother, your parent, your neighbour, your child or even you. Every one in that 27 million counts.
So while people in Australia are fretting about the horrible treatment of cows, millions of people are imprisoned in a trade that diminishes their human dignity and may result in death. During the 45 minutes of the report about the cattle trade, 90 people were victimised into trafficking.
I'm not saying that treating animals badly is okay. Because it's not. What I'm saying is that it is bloody ridiculous that 500,000 cows is a big deal when there are 27 million humans in a far worse situation. People are more important.
The issue of human trafficking can sound a bit exaggerated, but it's true. Too true even. For anyone who has seen the movie Taken, about a man who hunts down the traffickers of his daughter, that is an accurate representation of what happens. I heard a story about a man, while on a mission trip in India, whose taxi driver took a turn down a wrong street. The street happened to be where a large amount of sex trade was partaking. In rows stacked up on the sides of the street were girls, of all ages, naked and in cages.
This is real.
The worst part of this horrible issue is that only 1% of victims are rescued. And only one out of every 100,000 traffickers are convicted for their crime. Human trafficking thrives in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. It is not as prevalent an issue for Australia. Perhaps that is why the government sees no reason to create awareness for it. But just because we don't live in close proximity to an issue does not mean that we ignore it.
The A21 Campaign is an organisation that was born of "the decision of ordinary people taking the responsibility for human trafficking." They are passionate about creating awareness and doing absolutely everything they can to minimise human trafficking. They describe the trafficking trade as the 'modern day Holocaust.'
A couple of hours ago I posted this on Facebook: "I don't know much about the live cattle trade, but I know that there have been 27 million victims of slavery, 1.4 million of those into the sex trade. It's horrendous. People are more important. Do something about that first." I was encouraged to see someone else repost this.
I truly believe that people are more important. All people are important. Take responsibility for human trafficking. Because I don't know about you, but it disgusts me. It makes me sick that this is happening in the world we live in. In the 21st century, after centuries of conflicts and the fight for freedom, we are still fighting. If we don't speak up, no one will. There are 27 million people without a voice. And they need our help.
See also: Half the Sky: How to Change the World and here and here
Lauren @ Word Taxi