By Kit Hein, AAUW California Public Policy Committee
January 11, 2021 was National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. AAUW California supports efforts to combat human trafficking, as noted in our Public Policy Priorities: “Freedom from violence and fear of violence, including …human trafficking…in homes, schools, workplaces and communities…”
Human trafficking is the third-largest organized criminal activity in the world. Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery, with an estimated number of victims in the millions. Whether for labor or sex, men, women, and children are manipulated through force, fraud, and coercion.
Research shows that people of color, especially the Black community, are more likely to experience some form of sex trafficking. Racial and economic biases drive both social and legal presumptions of “victims” having chosen their situation.
Law enforcement efforts against human trafficking are stronger today than in 2017, but are still inadequate. Globally, definitions of human trafficking vary from country to country. Even using the term “slavery” is met with opposition in cases of forced marriages and cross border smuggling.In California, legislation in the past few years includes support for victims, updating school health curriculum, and addressing hospitality industry training. But legislation is not the key unless the public is educated as to the enormity of the issues, both locally and globally. Local branches of AAUW continue to provide community awareness events to educate the public.