Monday, February 15, 2010

Some Scary Numbers

I'm getting close to finishing the first draft of my new thriller, tentatively titled THE LONELY MILE. I'm not going to get into plot specifics, partly because the manuscript is unsold and partly because if I'm fortunate enough to get this book published it will be a couple of years at the earliest before it sees the light of day.

But in writing THE LONELY MILE I have had occasion to do some research into the subject of human trafficking, and what I discovered shocked me. If you're like me, hearing the word "slavery" brings back memories of fifth grade civics class and basic U.S. history, and the fact that we fought a Civil War nearly one hundred fifty years ago to end slavery in this country.

But slavery still exists, both in the Unites States and the world as a whole. In fact, according to the U.S. State Department, between 600,000 and 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked across international borders every year. Of these, seventy percent are female and fifty percent children, the majority of which are forced into commercial sex trade.

Human trafficking is the third most profitable criminal activity in the world, behind only drugs and arms trafficking. Within the United States alone, the State Department estimates between 14,000 and 18,000 people are trafficked annually. The report is careful to state that this figure does not include data on sexual exploitation alone, but rather the numbers include trafficking for any sort of forced labor.

Each year since 2001, the State Department has ranked the world's countries into three tiers, based on their efforts to eliminate human trafficking. In the 2009 report, the most recent available, seventeen countries have been identified as "Tier Three" nations, meaning they "do not comply with the minimum standards [of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000] and are not making significant efforts to do so."

Among those seventeen nations considered "Tier Three," - up from fourteen such nations identified in the 2005 report, by the way - are Cuba, Fiji, Iran, North Korea, and two countries American soldiers have fought and died trying to protect: Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Disturbing stuff. Hold on tight to your children and when they do things to try your patience, it might not be a bad idea to take a moment and give thanks they are around to do so.

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