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Talking a Blue Streak: Human Trafficking Prevention Month

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What links shrimp and chocolate? Both shrimp and chocolate are favorite foods of Americans. Both require a great deal of manual labor in the processing of shrimp (peeling) and chocolate (harvesting). Cheap labor makes both foods cheaper to purchase. Cocoa and foreign-harvested shrimp are frequently sold with slave labor at some point in their supply chains. Slave labor is the result of human trafficking. It is common associations like this that make one realize how enmeshed human trafficking is in our daily lives.

Human trafficking is “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons by threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability, or giving payments or benefits to a person in control of the victim, for the purpose of exploitation, which includes exploiting the prostitution of others, sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery or similar practices and the removal of organs.”

The United Nations has adopted the Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime along with the “Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children”. The Convention and Protocol entered into force in 2003.

Many nations have anti-human trafficking initiatives. In the United States, January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, which was started in 2011 by a presidential proclamation. January was selected as the commemorative month as it is the anniversary month of the Emancipation Proclamation. This past October marked the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA). The federal government has been tracking human trafficking and the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons report has been one of the most popular government titles since the agency first produced it. The government’s Blue Campaign works to raise awareness of human trafficking and to educate citizens to recognize the signs and report suspected trafficking; blue is the color of human trafficking awareness. Throughout January, government leaders, legislators, law enforcement, government workers, social workers, and lawyers are working to raise awareness of this human rights challenge.

Billboard. Photo by Flickr user Mayor McGinn Jan. 29, 2013. Used under Creative Commons license,

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