Human trafficking and the case of DC’s missing teens
For years many have heard of human trafficking but some of us live in worlds so seemingly secure and sheltered that we cannot grasp the possibility of people being removed from their environment, taken to mysterious places and kept away from the eyes of the rest of the world for years. The fact of the matter is that, it happens everyday in almost all parts of the world. So what exactly is human trafficking? It is the trade of humans, commonly for the purpose of forced labour, sexual slavery, or commercial sex work, or forced marriage.
Recently, dozens of missing teens, majorly girls, have been reported missing in the US capital. The reports came at a drastic rate sending a shock wave through social media and concerned groups, and surprisingly, not enough shock from groups who supposedly stand for these issues.
I grew up in Washington DC, in areas where some of these teens went missing. That time was before gentrification, when DC was still considered Chocolate City at its prime in the late 80s and early 90s. Reaganomics and the so-called War on Drugs was in full effect and drug dealers were as common as your neighbourhood mailman, but we did not feel a sense of fear. In fact, as school children, the known dope dealers would sometimes help walk us home from school to keep local boys from harassing us, or they’d help us cross the streets so that cars would see us when a crossing guard was unavailable. This is not to glorify their lifestyle or business but to illustrate that that DC had a “my neighbours’ keeper” mentality and did not prey on the vulnerable despite its many malfunctions. Fast forward to 2017 when over a dozen blacks and Hispanic teens were abducted in DC without a trace, and it is indeed a different city from the place I grew up.
But let’s talk about the so-called feminist groups who have remained silent on the case of the missing teenagers. The lack of concerted efforts to search for, spread word, and overall, care about the whereabouts of these missing girls speaks to a feminist movement so fragile and shows an unbothered position when the lives of black and brown girls are concerned. The lack of white women activists in the quest to spread the word to help find these girls has surprised some who believed that the predominantly white feminist movement was inclusive for all. Actions or lack thereof has proven otherwise.
The Black lives matter concept is one of equality and not of superiority. The concept stands on the belief that the value of black lives (in this case, black women lives), should always be seen and treated as fairly and equal to those of other races and colours (or lack thereof). In 2017, we are still marching to tell fellow human beings to respect our humanity. In 2017??!! So when these black teens go missing, is it a surprise that we have to attempt to, again, wake up the public to this epidemic, something that the national media should be doing? Nope, unfortunately.
Back to human trafficking; as of 2016, the Nigerian government identified 943 trafficking victims, including 429 victims of sex trafficking and 514 of labour trafficking. According to the US State Department’s 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report for Nigeria, “Nigerian women and girls—primarily from Benin City in Edo State—are subjected to forced prostitution in Italy, while Nigerian women and girls from other states are subjected to forced prostitution in Spain, Scotland, the Netherlands, Germany, Turkey, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Ireland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Greece, and Russia. Nigerian women and children are also recruited and transported to destinations in North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia, where they are held captive in the sex trade or in forced labour.”
Nigerian women and children are also taken from Nigeria to other West and Central African countries, as well as to South Africa, where they are exploited for the same purposes. The government has formal written procedures to guide law enforcement, immigration, and social services personnel in proactive identification of victims of trafficking among high-risk populations.
To prevent trafficking, there needs to be specialized training on proactive victim identification among vulnerable populations. Investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases, information sharing, counselling, intelligence collection, and monitoring and evaluation of existing programmes should also be imbibed. This will include a national concerted effort among lawmakers, immigration officials, social service providers, judges, Nigerian police, and prosecutors to improve protection to potential victims and assistance to trafficking victims, both within Nigeria and abroad. The public needs to have a raised awareness of trafficking. It’s about sensitizing vulnerable groups such as children and women who are most likely to be trafficked, sharpening the public awareness of trends and schemes traffickers use to lure victims, educating parents of the warning signs of environments conducive for trafficking activity, and encourage community members to participate in efforts to prevent trafficking.
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