Experts discuss ways to eliminate human trafficking at the Fight for Freedom Forum. (L to R: Rosi Orozco, Rachel Lloyd, Swanee Hunt, Mira Sorvino, Siddharth Kara). Photo Jim Smith
Five human trafficking experts, including Demand Abolition’s Founder and Chair Swanee Hunt, addressed a packed crowd last night for the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, “Fight for Freedom: Confronting Modern-Day Slavery, at Harvard’s Institute of Politics. One of the world’s premier arenas for political speech and debate, the JFK Forum presented the perfect backdrop for a discussion about this crucial but incredibly complex issue.
Led by moderator Richard Quest, of CNN’s Quest Means Business, each speaker brought a unique perspective and voice to the conversation, often focusing on the various ways lawmakers, law enforcement agencies, businesses, and private citizens can work together to combat modern slavery. From reducing the demand for illegal commercial sex, to calling for more transparency in how products are mass produced, the evening’s speakers covered a wide range of topics, reinforcing just how layered a problem human trafficking has become in our global economy.
In the coming weeks, CNN will turn the Forum into a news program that will be broadcast in the US and abroad, as part of its ongoing Freedom Project. We will share that when it’s made available, but in the meantime, here are just a few of the important points made last night:
- Swanee Hunt, Demand Abolition’s Founder and Chair, continually drove home the idea that only when men are unwilling to buy sex—or are too afraid of the legal and social repercussions they’d face if caught—will we see a significant reduction in the trafficking of women and girls in prostitution.
- Academy Award-winning actress and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Goodwill Ambassador to Combat Human Trafficking, Mira Sorvino, advocated for better training for educators, doctors, and first responders because in many instances a few minutes alone with a teacher or medical caretaker is the only window for escape an exploited person will ever have. (According to Sorvino, only one in a hundred people trapped in slavery will get out of their situation.)
- Rachel Lloyd, founder and CEO of Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, herself a trafficking survivor, called for more states to pass “safe harbor” laws like the one she lobbied for in New York, which recognizes that any minors sold for sex is a victim—not a criminal—and is therefore must be provided with social services instead of fines or jail time if police identify him or her in a prostitution case.
- Filmmaker, Harvard Kennedy School Lecturer, and Director of The Carr Center Program on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery, Siddharth Kara asked attendees to seek out and support businesses that produce good without slave labor. To truly make a difference Kara says we must all be more diligent when it comes to asking questions to ensure the items we buy are ethically made, and be willing to pay more for goods produced with no ties to slave labor.
- Rosi Orozco, President of Commission United Against Human Trafficking, encouraged better corporation among the United States and her country of Mexico in order to combat cross-border trafficking, especially sex-trafficking, which she says has become “a family business” in Mexico with young boys wanting to grow up to be pimps, just like their fathers and grandfathers that make money from American sex tourists.
The evening closed with Quest asking the audience to join CNN’s social media initiative—#FlyToFreedom—which aims to raise awareness of modern slavery and encourage people to make concrete pledges to tackle it in our lifetime. Learn more about #FLYToFreedom, including how you can participate, by clicking here.