The trafficking of human beings is not an abomination from past eras that has been eradicated. Also, its presence is not only known in third-world countries with volatile leadership. Human trafficking is an international epidemic that is also infecting the United States daily. Human rights activists work tirelessly to raise awareness and possible solutions to stop it.
According to various reports and statistics, nearly one million people are victims of forced labor and sex trades. Nearly 20,000 of these trafficking victims are suffering in the United States. Although Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act in 2000, the problem remains. Human rights advocates point out that the labor standards for domestic workers and the restaurant industry are poorly written and often ignored. They also note that many of the illegal immigrants in America are forced to work in these industries.
American immigration policy allows for a maximum of five thousand visas to be granted to foreign human trafficking victims. Unfortunately, very few are even granted, say some advocacy reports. The reasons behind the low numbers of trafficking visas have been blamed on a lack of resources and poor enforcement and penalties.
While the American Labor Board and other international advocacy groups are working against forced labor trafficking, others are trying to help those who are victims of sex trafficking. Some organizations dispute the definition of a sex trafficking victim. There are those who feel that some people are in the sex business by choice. Others feel that sex workers are being exploited, regardless of their choices. In order to reach more victims, U.S. funding has increased for anti-trafficking organizations.
Human rights advocates around the world are addressing the problems with human trafficking, especially in poor, oppressed countries. In the center of the world stage is twenty-two year old Yeonmi Park. In her new book, she discusses the horrors that she and her family went through while escaping the tyranny of North Korea. Park knows from experience what it is like being a human trafficking victim.
As a child in North Korea, she and her family were used to an oppressive government that told them every move to make and what to think. Yeonmi Park’s father was a government official who was thrown in prison for allegedly doing black market dealings with China. He was later released because of frail health. With the whole family suffering from nationwide poverty and famine, Park’s father urged them to run for their lives and he would join them later.
Park, her sister, and her mother entrusted a group of dubious Chinese traffickers to get them out of the country. For nearly three years, they suffered from unthinkable abuse and the fear of being caught. Her father did meet up with them, only to die of colon cancer in the Mongolian mountains. Finally, Park and her family made it to the safety of the South Korean embassy.
She is now a popular lecturer and a leading voice in human rights. She speaks of the resilience of the human spirit and of the importance of eliminating human trafficking. Park inspires people from around the world to be grateful for freedom and presents a call to action for those who still suffer.