Your View: Guest Column - Human trafficking is an issue here, too

Jan. 30, 2013 @ 01:17 AM

BY JAMAL TAHIRKHELI

I would like to address something that is not mentioned very often in North Carolina. Especially in our local communities. That is the issue of modern-day slavery, better known as human trafficking. It’s easy for us to watch special reports or movies on this subject and think how bad this must be, yet we do nothing.
There are over 27 million modern-day slaves that exist in our world today. These people are subjected to sexual slavery, forced labor, domestic servitude, etc. and yet we do nothing but look at our televisions with disbelief for a few minutes and then go back to our normal lives. I would think that there isn’t a minute that goes by that these modern-day slaves wish they could go back to their “normal” lives.
See, this problem doesn’t just exist in India, China, Russia, Thailand or Cambodia. No, this is a major problem in our United States. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says that at least 100,000 children are trafficked each year in our country. That is someone’s brother, sister, son or daughter.
These people had a life at one time and now are subjected to the cruel punishments of certain evil people. I believe that it is our moral responsibility to shine a light on this issue and be the generation that puts an end to modern-day slavery. President Obama made substantial progress when he announced several new initiatives aimed at ending trafficking nationwide, including the first-ever assessment of the problem in this country and a $6 million grant to build solutions.
North Carolina has passed significant laws to combat human trafficking, but we can do more. North Carolina doesn’t have a state human trafficking hotline.
North Carolina doesn’t award civil damages to victims of human trafficking. North Carolina doesn’t vacate convictions for sex trafficking victims. That means these victims have prostitution charges on their record for something they were forced to do. North Carolina has no “Safe Harbor” laws protecting trafficked minors.
I say all this because I believe that there is so much more that we can do. Yes, even our community can have a major impact in ending modern-day slavery.
We just have to be willing to be part of something bigger than ourselves. It’s so easy to become consumed with arguing about politics, sports or religion, but this is an issue which shouldn’t be debated. The fundamental right of freedom is being taken away from victims of human trafficking, but we can help to restore that freedom. I would dare say that there could be people who are actively being trafficked here in Guilford County and that is why we must never be afraid to ask questions, always observe your surroundings, and stay vigilant.
If you would like more information on human trafficking, I would suggest checking out http://www.polarisproject.org, http://www.notforsalecampaign.org/, and http://enditmovement.com/. There are so many more resources that you can find just by doing an online search. It is our moral responsibility to put an end to modern-day slavery. Will you join the movement?

Jamal Tahirkheli lives in High Point.


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