By TRINA BERNAL
According to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, trafficking is the illegal transportation and solicitation of labor by “abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability [by] payments or benefits.” An unnamed trafficker took Khawng Nu* when she was 22. Originally Nu thought it was an opportunity for employment since there’s not enough work opportunity in her area. As the UNWomen author called it, it wasn’t until she arrived at the supposed job destination that “her womb would be the factory.” Khawng Nu swallowed pills and was poked with a needle to carry a random man’s sperm to carry babies for Chinese men, against her consent. If trafficked victims like Nu tried to leave, they’d instantly be murdered.
Nu was frequently ridiculed and violently assaulted by her captors. But one thing Nu kept in mind was knowing that if she was trafficked, her body wouldn’t return to her family, which wouldn’t align with the Burmese belief–your soul wouldn’t return to your body if it can’t be found.
With about 40 women on her floor, Nu grappled with the fact 16 year-olds occupied the same space as her. Nu met Mun Pan*, who was also a teenager. “When I arrived, no woman wanted to tell me what the job was. They told me, ‘It’s a good job, you don’t have to do anything.’”
It was a relief to find someone to sympathize with, but even with relief Nu had to contact a trusted outside source. After some time, Nu’s family had to pay a ransom fine of 10 million MMK (USD 6,320). Of the 40, 5 have been rescued thanks to the list of names Nu shared with the authorities and UN Women’s partner, Htoi Gender and Development Foundation. It’s about 13% of the total trafficking victims but it still counts for something.
An anti-trafficking law passed in 2005 but trafficking is still existent in Myanmar. Which is why Htoi provides workshops for trafficking survivors, where counseling and legal aid is provided. Currently 165 participants from 13 county divisions are taking advantage of this, where women can learn to set up and run their own shops. Trafficking in 3rd-world countries can be frequent, because of little to no job availability in the immediate area. So the Programme provided by Htoi will assist women in creating a business as a market vendor or successful craft maker. The reality of trafficking forces people to learn skills in a shorter span of time than the people in the first-world country do.
It’s hard to cover news in 3rd-world countries because of the secrecy trafficking requires for their convoluted success, but it’s a growing concern today going unchecked because of the current law being “weak and not fully implemented,” said Htoi lawyer Sar Li Htwi.
As for first-world countries like America, we as civilians still manage to let it slip our radar. For example, there was a famous chain of Malaysian fusion restaurants that were given high praises by hundreds of customers, but behind the delicious appetizers and the hardworking staff, was the overworked employees with little pay. The owners of this chain, Hai Jie Chen and Hak Chun Ng, must pay $1 million lawsuit for the stolen wages and tips to 56 former employees, of whose living conditions consisted of 15 people living in two-bedroom apartments with only mattresses to bed them.
For all the 72 hours, each of the 56 employees worked. Employers Chen and Ng didn’t want to pay overtime for their staff which added up to each employee earning up to $24 daily and $720 a month ($2 per hour for 11-12 hour days.) That amount would be proportionally inappropriate if the employees were to live on their own, since Bestplaces.net stated the average Fremont resident’s cost of living can be calculated up to about $1,379.00, not including the cost of having a child. The Malaysian chain owners still reopened the business under different ownership. But California Labor and Workforce Development Agency stated that it wouldn’t help Chen and Ng’s case, it would worsen their charges. As a result, Chen and Ng were sentenced to probation and community service; in addition, Chen was convicted of felony conspiracy to commit wage theft, tax and insurance and Ng was convicted of a misdemeanor count of failing to pay workers minimum wage. As Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said, “We are here to protect the rights of workers, and will bring to justice any employer who engages in exploitation of his or her employees.”
Trafficking is illegal and is a violation of the fundamental human right of freedom and privacy. Unfortunately, it’s a successful endeavor unnoticed by the majority of the naked eye. Visalia Times Delta states anyone can identify the characteristics of human trafficking victims with subpar physical and mental health, as well as terrible working conditions at their workplace. Anti-trafficking/child-slavery advocate Shared Hope Organization adds that traffickers are usually possessive, easily agitated, makes empty promises, is inappropriately older than female companions, and/or guilt-trips the victim into thinking they’re responsible for their financial stability. Shared Hope also advises that the trafficked individual may have evidence of physical abuse like fresh cuts, burn marks, has too much truancy for school, is predisposed to tiredness in class, and/or talks about extravagant, wild parties.
The administration had the honor to collaborate with Shared Hope to present a documentary called Chosen, as recent as May 15 and 16th. Chosen details the stories of innocent teenagers being victims to trafficking, and how the lack of awareness from their family and friends was a huge factor in that tragic occurrence. According to Vice Principal Ms. Cole, Assembly Bill 1227 mandates that administration across the state should inform students of human trafficking and prevention methods to avoid such manipulators online or in-person.
If you know of anyone who may be in danger of being victim to human trafficking, contact 1 (888) 373-7888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Line of communication is protected and is confidential, but you can definitely send an anonymous report at the bottom of the page, https://humantraffickinghotline.org/report-trafficking.