Somy Ali on human trafficking: It has become over a billion-dollar industry, even surpassing the weapons trade and the drug trade
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month and Somy Ali, who runs a US-based NGO called No More Tears and helps victims of human trafficking, domestic, violence and rape, says that people unite this month to take a stand against this evil.
“Human Trafficking Awareness Month is designed to educate the public about human trafficking and the role they can play in preventing and responding to human trafficking. Since 2010, the U.S. federal government has designated the month of January and human trafficking prevention month. The colour blue is internationally recognised as the universal colour for human trafficking prevention. Countless people wear blue in January to show their solidarity to take a stand against this modern day slavery. The symbol for human trafficking awareness is a blue heart,” she says.
She adds, “Human trafficking is the largest growing criminal enterprise in the world and it has become over a billion-dollar industry, even surpassing the weapons trade and the drug trade industry. You can sell cocaine once, but you can sell a five-year-old girl for sex for countless years. The issue is that people are not educated on this rapidly spreading pandemic which has no prejudices and impacts everyone. It does not matter what your economical status, class, affluence, religion, or your ethnicity is because traffickers are looking to supply and there is a great deal of demand when it comes to sex and labour trafficking. People are oblivious to the prevalence of this issue and even if they are made aware, they assume it's a third world issue. Whereas, human trafficking is taking place right in our backyard. It is everywhere and what's worse is that the recruiters are women which makes it easier for minors to be duped and sold into slavery.”
According to the U.S. Department of State, there are estimated to be more than 27.6 million people- adults and children subjected to human trafficking around the world. Somy says that this evil is very prevalent in India too. “You come across a lot of cases from India where children and adults are trafficked from India. No More Tears has 45% domestic violence cases and the rest are all human trafficking cases. India, South America, and Bangladesh are the highest ranking when it pertains to the trafficking of children and adults. And, the demand is growing rapidly on a daily basis where children are being sold on the dark web by their own family members. In the U.S, California is number one in trafficking, be it sex or labour, while South Florida, which is where our NGO is based, ranks as the third highest in demand for trafficked minors and adults. A child is sold anywhere from $2500 to $3500 and the youngest age for girls is anywhere from 10-13 years old while for boys it is 11-14 years old,” she says.
Talking about some of the worst cases of human trafficking that she has dealt with, Somy says, “Our NGO has had the most barbaric cases of human trafficking where a two year old girl was being sold on the dark web by her own parents because they were drug addicts and they would commit sexual acts on their own child the more money they recieved. It was disgusting and I have never seen so much evil in the world when it comes to the selling of minors or adults. Many cases from India come through online wedding websites where a man goes to India marries the girl and then once she is in the U.S. he sells her to traffickers for sex and labor.”
She adds, “We have the most heinous crimes committed against human beings related to trafficking and the demand is the younger the better. It makes me sick to my stomach when I see this continuing on a daily basis. It's nonstop and growing due to the sickening demand from not only men, but also women who abuse the trafficked children and adults. We rescue them with the help of law enforcement and the first thing we do is to provide them with therapy and then have them checked for sexually transmitted diseases. I know in my lifetime, I will not be able to put an end to this horrifying crime, but each child and adult rescued and then given services by our NGO to heal is worth every minute of my time doing this work.”
She says that people don’t want to believe that this evil exists. “This is because people don't want to know, they blame the victim, or it's so dark of an issue that even if they are aware they look the other way, exactly the same problem is with domestic violence and sexual abuse of children. It's always swept under the rug which again hinders our ability to find victims. There is a stigma attached to even talking about it and in the history of Hindi cinema I have seen only one movie made on the subject of children being sexually abused which was Monsoon Wedding and Shefali Shah was beyond excellent in that film while shedding light on this issue. Awareness is key and unless celebrities balance selfies with posts about real issues things will not change. You can post a pretty picture of yourself and yet post something on a substantial issue. They do not have to be mutually exclusive. People who have large platforms and clout must take it upon themselves to speak on these issues. No one is happy all the time and if one assumes that to be factual they are living in a delusional world. We can't only take a stand if it happens to someone we care about, otherwise what are we doing here? What are we doing as human beings if we can't even speak on issues that can save millions of lives. It is incumbent upon us to speak up if we are blessed and have the power where a layperson would follow suit and accept the fact that human trafficking is not the premise of a movie or a Netflix series. It is very real and it is here to stay unless we do something about it,” she says.