Panel Discusses Sex, Labor Trafficking Locally and Globally

By MONIQUE SANTOSO

COURTESY PHOTO
Middlebury Stop Traffick is a social justice-oriented student organization that aims to combat sex trafficking and modern day slavery.

Human trafficking is a universal issue, not just one which happens in developing countries. On Tuesday, April 9, Middlebury’s Stop Traffick Club presented a panel which educated the Middlebury College community on some different perspectives on human trafficking, with local, academic and global takes on the issue. 

The panel, titled, “Breaking the Bonds of Modern Slavery: Perspectives on Human Trafficking,” included Darlene Pawlik, sex trafficking survivor and now advocate from New Hampshire, Sarah Stroup, Associate Professor of Political Science at Middlebury and Princy Prasad, grant writer and graphic designer for Nomi Network.

The panel was moderated by Madeleine Tango ’21.5, president of Stop Traffick who stated that the panel was “crucial to engage the campus community on the imminent dangers of trafficking, its causes and what students can do to fight against modern-day slavery.”

Treasurer Spencer Royston ’21 said that “human trafficking is an issue that is so hidden from our daily lives, and government agencies are not doing enough to see this as an important issue in terms of the laws that are currently in place.” 

He believes that as a campus, we should be addressing this issue more fervently, as human trafficking is a million-dollar industry. He added that panels like these are platforms that empower survivors to tell their story and support them, as well as organizations that are doing more for them like Nomi Network, a partner of the Stop Traffick Club at Middlebury.

The panel began by explaining human trafficking and its various manifestations, from sex trafficking, to organ trafficking, to labor trafficking. The issue roots itself in the action of harboring and transporting human beings with force, promise or coercion.

Prasad shed light on how the problem is deeply rooted in culture in countries like Cambodia and India where child marriage and the caste system are still in place.

“If I send my daughter off, then they will be someone else’s problem,” Prasad said. “This is a cultural mindset that prevents girls from having their own freedom and rights.” 

“It is the fastest growing commercial enterprise today.  However, since it takes so many shapes, governments often miscalculate the numbers of how many victims there actually are,” Pawlik said. 

The panel also discussed the role of globalization and fast-fashion in the growth of the human trafficking industry. The growing demands of the fashion industry in keeping up with changing trends create an increased need for a greater supply of clothes production, and globalization has made outsourcing of labor incredibly easy for businesses.

Nonetheless, it is important for consumers like us to be conscious of where our clothes come from. Pawlik and Prasad asked the audience to use the mobile application “My Slavery Footprint” when going to a store to purchase goods. Moreover, they acknowledged the issue of choice and how it truly is a privilege to be able to be mindful of what one purchases, knowing that those who live in poverty do not have the choice of choosing what is consciously-made over what is cheap.

“Anyone anywhere can be a victim of human trafficking,” Pawlik said. She called on college students and their ability to be conscious of and fight against human trafficking, which can start by calling out stores and companies that may not be complying with ethical standards of production through social media such as Twitter and Facebook. Informed activism through connections with local organizations is also a step in the right direction to take action.

In the end, Professor Stroup highlighted the importance of law enforcement in seeing and recognizing that trafficked persons are victims and not criminals, so as to promote a more conducive environment to combat human trafficking in a hyper-local level.

To learn more about human trafficking, attend Stop Traffick Club’s weekly meetings at 6 p.m. on Tuesdays in the LaForce Lounge.

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