There is no such thing as a British accent. Now don’t feel bad – it comes as a shock to many people! This week at the Investigator Academy, a fellow student referred to my ‘British accent’, and I have to say it was like a red rag to a bull; “I DON’T have a British accent”, I exploded, “Britain includes England, Scotland, and Wales. Do I sound English, Scottish, and Welsh to you??”
Don’t get me wrong, it was all taken in good humour and led to a good amount of accent impersonation fails from our international group, but it did highlight to me the fact that it is easy to assume that we know something, without actually grasping the detail. I was confronted with this problem early on in the week as we learned exactly what human trafficking is, and exactly what it is not.
Human trafficking is: “The recruitment, harbouring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act/labour services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion, for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery, or in which the person forced to perform such a sexual act is under the age of 18 years.” ¹
In other words, if a person is forced, fraudulently lured, or coerced into labour or sexual acts, then they are the victim of trafficking. This challenges, for example, the classic misconception that it is merely the physical transportation of individuals across international borders for the purposes of exploitation – if a minor in the United States engages in prostitution then he or she, by definition, is a victim of trafficking. It also means that an individual can willingly elect to leave their home country under false pretences, and only later, after legally entering another country and being turned over to exploitation, realise the degree of the fraud. This brings a whole new perspective to the scale of the problem, and to the level of education, understanding, and awareness required to combat the problem of human trafficking.
For centuries we have lived with the problem of slavery/human trafficking within our culture, yet we have never been able to stamp out the root of exploitation. Even when parliamentary bills have been passed to prohibit slavery, the practice has still remained. Clearly the fact that human trafficking is publicly illegal has not deterred out society from engaging in the practice, and benefiting from its services and products. So where to begin in attempting to end slavery in our lifetime? Mark Wexler, co-founder, of the Not For Sale Campaign, framed the matter pragmatically this week, explaining that in order to ‘change’ culture, we have to ‘influence’ culture.
Culture is defined as “the total of the inherited ideas, beliefs, values, and knowledge, which constitutes the shared bases of social action.”². It is the combined beliefs and values etc. of the individuals which make up society, specifically including those which are inherited from the generation before us. When we think of culture, we think of music, art and drama, and for this reason, it is essential for Not For Sale, and abolitionists worldwide, to be instrumental in all streams of society; to begin the process of ‘change’ through ‘influence’. To incrementally shift the ‘norm’ of our culture – to redefine what we bequeath to the generations to come. To ensure that our ‘shared…social action’, is no longer one of exploitation, but of ‘zero-tolerance’ towards human trafficking.
And that is the beauty of this movement – we all, consciously or not, contribute towards our collective culture. Therefore, if we each choose to consciously take the initiative to be personally responsible for the way in which we do, as a consumer, an entrepreneur, a person of faith, an artist, an educator etc., then one by one, like grains of rice on a weighing scale, we will slowly tip the balance of our society, until trafficking is no longer accepted, tolerated, or ‘necessary’.
I’m sure you will learn from the other fellows that this week was hard! Physically, emotionally, and mentally. A common quote of the week regarding the academy was, “you come expecting to drink from a water fountain, and you end up drinking from a fire hydrant!” This was certainly true for me, and I think it will take me a good few weeks to work through all the information I have heard. However, the take home messages are: 1) I do not have a British accent, and 2) Human Trafficking is ridiculously more complicated than I thought.
Over and out.