As you have read so far, slavery is alive and well today. Human beings are still being forced to participate in acts against their will – still being transported out of their native countries in the name of making money. Second only to drug dealing, human trafficking – along with arms dealing- is the biggest criminal business in the world, and is also the fastest-growing. This modern-day slavery produces billions of dollars each year. Victims include men, women and children, with the majority being women and children. Many times victims are transported willingly after being given false job offers. When they arrive at their destination, instead of finding the job they were offered, they are forced into certain types of work, or exploited in the sex trade. These victims are put to work in prostitution, pornography, sweatshops, construction, housekeeping, agriculture and restaurants. Many trafficking victims who are transported to foreign countries do not understand the language there, and are terrorized with the prospect of punishment or harm to members of their families back home.
Although in the United States the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 made human trafficking a federal crime, many trafficking organizations go undetected, due to the covert nature of the crime. The largest number of people trafficked into the United States are from East Asia and the Pacific. According to the United Nations, 4 million people a year are forced into some type of slavery. Thailand is a prime country as the source and destination of human trafficking. Thousands of women go to Bangkok in search of work, and because of their lack of education and skills, they are vulnerable to human traffickers. They are then forced into prostitution. It has been estimated that eighty percent of Thai men are involved with women who are prostitutes, and eighty percent of foreign men who visit Thailand are involved in the sex trade.
Nightlight is an international group working to end human trafficking and prostitution. Nightlight’s Website states that, their “mission is to build relationship and provide hope, intervention, rescue and assistance to women and children exploited in the sex industry by offering alternative employment, vocational opportunities, life-skills training, and physical, emotional and spiritual development to women seeking freedom.” Nightlife gives help to victims of trafficking and restores their sense of dignity. In Bangkok, Nightlight functions as a jewelry business (Nightlight Design Co. Ltd.) and also as a non-profit (Nightlight Foundation). In the United States, Nightlight functions as a 501c3 with locations in Los Angeles and Atlanta.
Through Nightlight Design in Bangkok, the Thai women are crafting lovely pieces of jewelry from silver, semi-precious stones, pearls and decorative beads. They also learn skills in accounting, quality control, inventory and marketing. According to Nightlights’ Website, “Nightlight Design provides an economic alternative for women who previously had no hope of freedom from their circumstances.” In addition to crafting the jewelry, the women learn English and life-skills training. They receive medical benefits, a savings plan and are given raises depending on their work. The women also are offered scholarships if they wish to continue their education. The Website goes on to explain that “every piece of jewelry you purchase provides direct support for one of the artisans. You are helping to break the cycle of abuse by making a lasting difference in a woman’s life, giving her dignity and a meaningful way of supporting herself and her family”. Eighty women are employed in the jewelry business. Nightlight has an average waiting list of ten to fifteen women seeking a better way of life. They can not be employed until enough work and funds are available. There is also a child-care center available for women working at Nightlight. In addition, these women have started a church called “Send the Light”. Through this church they strive to bring spiritual transformation to those around them. Nightlight Life in Los Angeles was started in order to make Americans understand the work being done in Bangkok, and to give people a chance to fight human trafficking and the sex trade in the United States, along with getting people involved in advocacy and outreach.
As Psalm 1 says, we need to stand firm against the evils of human trafficking and the sex trade. Florida is one of the top states in the United States involved in human trafficking- yes, it is happening in our own backyards! Let us give our support to end this abuse of humanity! Psalm 1 states: ” Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked or stand around with sinners or join in with mockers. But they delight in the laws of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never whither, and they prosper in all they do. But not the wicked! They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind. They will be condemned at the time of judgment. Sinners will have no place among the godly. For the Lord watches over the path of the godly, but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.” As Psalm 1 says, we need to stand firm against the evils of human trafficking and the sex trade.
For more information, visit Nightlight’s Website at www.nightlightinternational.com.
Annette Maraist can be reached at: [email protected].