100,000 U.S. Kids are Sold into Sex Trafficking Every Year

Rising Team - Wednesday, April 15, 2015
by Heena Gandhi

On November 2, 2014, I saw an article in the Huffington Post written by Eleanor Goldberg titled, “Sex Trafficking Isn't An 'Over There' Issue. 100,000 U.S. Kids Are Sold Into It Every Year.”

The first sentence of the article, “Selling children into sex trafficking may seem like a remote issue, something that happens in far-off places where kids live in extreme poverty, and their rights aren't valued.” This statement that Goldberg wrote is one that I think many of us can relate to. Without information and knowledge of ongoing issues in the world, people are just not aware...and I was that person. I briefly knew of children living in poverty, and women not having equal rights. After watching videos, and reading articles and stories, it is a real life situation that is happening locally as well as globally. This article is about human trafficking occurring right here—all over the United States. There is a new campaign that wants people to take note that more than 100,000 children are victims of sex trafficking in America every year. ECPTAT-USA, is a nonprofit that works to stop the sexual exploitation of children. It is also stated that according to federal law, anyone younger than 18 who engages in prostitution is considered a sex trafficking victim. Most Americans know little about the rampant child sex trade, and that is not okay. People all over the world need to be informed about human trafficking. That is why nonprofits such as ECPTAT-USA and Rising International are doing wonderful jobs in promoting awareness.

Lesley Young Cutler, owner of Envision Meetings and Incentives, Inc. said in a statement, “Once you realize how prevalent this issue is, that it's right in front of us, potentially even in our meetings and events—it's impossible to sit back and do nothing.” I couldn't agree more with Cutler. Those who are informed need to go out into the public, and inform those who are unaware. It is our duty. We have to continue making a difference, and make an end to human trafficking.

Have you heard of Backpage?

Rising Team - Monday, March 23, 2015
by Heena Gandhi
On November 1, 2014, Nicholas Kristof wrote an article in the New York Times called “Teenagers Stand Up to Backpage.” Kristof starts off with an outstanding statement that makes the reader contemplate the answer, “If prostitution of children is illegal, why is it that we allow an estimated 100,000 underage girls and boys to be sold for sex in America each year - many on a single American website, Backpage.com?” (I did not know what Backpage.com was until I looked it up myself. Backpage.com is a free classified ads website, similar to craigslist.com). Kristof tells the story of two young women who say they were each sold on Backpage at age 15, and raped hundreds of times. As a result, they are suing the company in Boston in federal court. Another suit is winding its way through Washington State courts, pursued by three girls who say they, too, were sold for sex on Backpage when they were 13 years old. 

Nonetheless, Kristof writes that “Backpage also makes it hard to search for missing girls, by allowing scrambled phones numbers in sex ads. If you sell a dog on Backpage in the pet section, you must post a numeric phone number; Sell sex with a girl, and you can use a non-searchable version-such as zero12-345-six78nine-that makes it more difficult for police or family members to locate a missing child with a simple Internet search. It makes me so angry to read that these sick people would actually sexually exploit children, and take them away from their families. To me, these people are not human. If you cannot feel that this is morally wrong, then you are not a person, and should be locked up forever. While I was infuriated to read about these underage girls being sold on this website, I also could not help but admire their bravery. I mean, how cool is that these girls are standing up for their rights? 

If you speak up against something that is wrong, others will most likely follow, and speak up also. If women do not continue to speak up for their rights, and demand equality, they will continue to be taken advantage of, and will never get the life they deserve. It is very important that all women know how much they are worth, and finally stand up against the people who are treating them without respect. 

The Numbers Tell the Story

Rising Team - Tuesday, February 24, 2015
by Heena Gandhi

On November 17, 2014 BBC World News gave a report titled “Almost 36m live in modern slavery.” A survey by the anti-slavery campaign group Walk Free says, “nearly 36 million people worldwide, or 0.5% of the world's population, live as slaves.” How do you feel when you read that? I'll be honest; I didn't think that was possible. I was very surprised to learn that there are 36 million people living as slaves. We're not talking about 5, or 10, or even 15 people, this is 36 million. Since when did society say that this is okay to do? Of course there are heroes in this society that we live in that are trying to stop slavery, but how do we find these “pimps” who are abducting girls and women, and selling them into the sex trade?

The report goes on to say that India has the most slaves overall, and Mauritania has the highest percentage. This report also defines slaves as “people subject to forced labor, debt bondage, trafficking, sexual exploitation for money, and forced or servile marriage.” Now here is the real shocker. In Europe there are 566, 200 people living in slavery. In Russia and Eurasia there are 2, 599, 300. In the Middle East and North Africa there are 2, 178, 100. In the Americas there are 1,285,000. In the Sub-Saharan Africa there are 5,619,200. In South Asia there are 17,459,900, and in East Asia and Pacific there are 6,082,900(Global Slavery Index 2014). I am as shocked as you are. We need to help end human trafficking in any way we can. One way is to support Rising International’s Safe and Sound Program.

Women are Human Beings

Rising Team - Wednesday, January 28, 2015
by Heena Gandhi
My name is Heena Gandhi and I’m an intern with Rising International. I'm 22 years old and studying Anthropology at UCSC. My dream is to go to graduate school to study Public Health, and to specifically focus on health policy to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to receive health benefits. 

I grew up in San Bruno, California and have been living in Santa Cruz for the past four years while attending UCSC. My mom is from Gujarat, India. She had an arranged marriage to my father at the age of 21, and wasn’t able to make her own decision about wanting a proper education. This was because her parents wanted her to get married and start a family. It’s hard for women to stand up for their rights, especially in a country like India, where families already have plans for you. For these reasons, I take my education seriously, and want to make my mom proud of me for graduating from college, since she did not have the opportunity to do so.

Finding Rising International was a true gift because it really opened my eyes to the different kinds of conflict women all over the world are constantly dealing with. I continue to learn so much from Carmel and the rest of the team. Women need to stick together no matter what, and encourage one another when there is discrimination. 

My blog series is about my journey learning about human trafficking. My hope is that it motivates you to contribute to ending it. Thank you for reading it! 

Women are Human Beings

After watching the Not My Life documentary, I was in utter disbelief. I was not that aware of human trafficking, and how it is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world (32 billion dollars), second only to the drug trade. According to the documentary, and for those of you who do not know, human trafficking is in fact slavery. There are an estimated 29 million victims all over the world, and human trafficking exists in every country on earth. There was one woman in this film that really touched my heart when she said, “you feel like...you're not even a person.”

It is very important for everyone to learn about human trafficking because while we can see it happening in other countries, (such as India), it is indeed happening in the United States as well. Women are human beings. We are people, and it is not in any shape or form right for us to be stolen from our families and stripped of our dignity. I’m learning that human trafficking is something not to be ignored. If you, or anyone you may know, are victims of human trafficking, please call the hotline at the National Human Trafficking Resource Center: 1-888-373-7888 or text BeFree (233733).