By Shahzeen Humayun
Growing up, I never really understood what human trafficking was, let alone child trafficking. It was when I had begun watching Lifetime movies about the subject and more significantly, the movie Taken back in 2008, when I was sensible enough to understand the gravity of the sick epidemic which affects every country in the world. The thought that humans are used as commodities and traded for the purpose of forced labor, sex slavery, or other forms of commercial exploitation was totally foreign and repulsive. I thought to myself, “How on earth does something like this exist in this day and age, and how on earth did this even begin?” As I started spinning my wheels, I came to the conclusion that the main root causes of child trafficking were the following:
A. From the perspective of transporters, traffickers, strip club/brothel owners and powerful stakeholders of the prostitution industry, the primary objective is to make money.
B. From the perspective of poor, struggling families who need living wages, the primary goal is to meet basic needs from the earnings of the child victims, whether that be via forced child labor in sweatshops, construction sites, or in houses as domestic servants.
C. From the perspective of the victim who is either forced into the sex trafficking either deceptively or forcefully, I believe that the victim is too afraid, vulnerable, and traumatized to seek help or escape the vicious cycle of sex trafficking and prostitution. In fact, in many cases, the victims are physically and mentally tortured and threatened in case they plan to escape.
The federal definition of sex trafficking per the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, 22 U.S.C. 7102(10) is the following: “…the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.” Furthermore, the federal definition of child sex trafficking includes any child who is bought for sex, regardless of whether force, fraud, or coercion was used, regardless of whether a buyer exploited the youth without the trafficker’s involvement, and regardless of whether the victim identities a trafficker. Accordingly, all commercially sexually exploited children are identified as victims of sex trafficking under federal law.
Every child deserves to live out his or her youth without having the awful thought of being traded, abducted, or bought and sold for sex. However, multiple studies show that children between the ages of 14-16 are most likely to fall into the net of sex trafficking. Social media is one hub which makes it easier for pimps to find numerous underage child victims and reel them into child trafficking and prostitution. However, places like bars, clubs, public places, and even schools are also targeted venues. In the initial luring stages, the trafficker commonly crafts ways to establish a relationship with the victim in an effort to connect emotionally and to gauge the victim’s vulnerabilities before psychologically convincing the victim to emotionally and mentally depend solely on the trafficker. The consequence of these mind games is the trafficker holding complete control of the victim. Although this a common technique traffickers utilize, there are many cases in which the child is blatantly abducted and unscrupulously tossed into forced sex labor.
To this day, I continue to struggle with the idea that it took years for me to really know what human trafficking is and how it is built on the very economic principle I learned in 7th grade: the concept of supply and demand. How unfortunate are the children who have been displaced from their families because they were not able to choose for themselves? Rather, they were forcefully told what their future will look like. As a human being, the thought of exploiting children for personal gains is repulsive. Are we not allowed to live our lives with our own free will? Is that not the birth right every human being is born with – the right to choose? 99% of the buyers in the booming sex trafficking industry are male and the supply of child sex victims continues to skyrocket to meet the growing demand for commercial sex with minors. It is an uphill battle to tackle the issue and I am not expecting a one-stop solution which will make the ugly truth of child trafficking go away overnight. However, the first step is to acknowledge that child trafficking is truly a horrendous matter which is affecting the world we are raising so many children in. Child trafficking is not confined to a specific country or type of person. Anyone can be trafficked, regardless of race, class, education level, gender, age or citizenship. Cases of human trafficking have been reported in every state of the United States of America, and in almost every country in the world.
My opinion is that the fault never lies with the child, as children are vulnerable, impressionable, and malleable. Therefore, it is imperative to know what child trafficking is, what it looks like, and how to spot sex trafficking. For that to occur, we must educate ourselves and the people around us about trafficking. We must protect all children from being sucked into all forms of child trafficking. That’s why I urge all of you to do the right thing. Spread awareness. Educate yourself and others. To learn more about how you can support our cause, please donate or volunteer to One Bread. 100% of the proceeds One Bread earns from its affiliate programs goes directly toward the rehabilitation of children rescued from sex trafficking. To learn more please visit: https://www.one-bread.org/.
1. Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005, https://www.state.gov/j/tip/laws/61106.htm
2. “Human Trafficking by the Numbers.” The University of Texas at Austin, December 2016, https://sites.utexas.edu/idvsa/files/2017/02/Human-Trafficking-by-the-Numbers-2016.pdf
3. “Bill to toughen child sex trafficking”, By Holly Ramer Associated Press, February 7, 2019, https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/national-politics/article225921255.html
About the Author:
Shahzeen Humayun graduated from Modesto Christian High School, then went on to UC Berkeley to pursue a B.S. in Environmental Economics & Policy and minor in Peace & Conflict Studies. Currently, she works in the Financial Services industry at a bank in San Francisco, but her passion is to serve people. She has years of experience volunteering with nonprofits and charitable organizations such as Homeless Prenatal in San Francisco and BOSS (Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency) in Berkeley, CA. Shahzeen is passionate about standing up for the marginalized, homeless, and the helpless. Her goal is to advocate for underprivileged children by helping them find a voice.
In 2018, Shahzeen founded the nonprofit organization, Help Global, which focuses on providing homeless and low income children with basic necessities and to promote education in underprivileged and underserved communities. Currently, she is in the process of connecting with key stakeholders in USA and across Pakistan to carry out outreach projects in the remote areas of Pakistan, geared at helping homeless children. Shahzeen is determined to play her part in giving back to the world and helping others reach their fullest potential and succeed both professionally and personally.
A resident of Dublin, California, Shahzeen resides in the East Bay with her husband and two children.