National Human Trafficking Awareness Day on January 11 raises awareness of the persistent issue of human trafficking. Though the entire month of January has already been recognized as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, this day is specifically dedicated to awareness and prevention of the illegal practice. This holiday is also separate from the World Day Against Trafficking Persons, as established by the United Nations. Since the Senate established this day of observance in 2007, it has drawn massive public support from individual donations to government-organized events. The horrific injustice of human trafficking can affect people of any race and background, and on this day we are all called to fight human trafficking wherever it exists.
History of National Human Trafficking Awareness Day
Human trafficking, according to Unitas, is the exploitation of another person for labor, domestic servitude, or commercial sexual activity by force, fraud, or coercion. It is also the act of enslaving or exploiting unwilling other people. Unfortunately, slavery in some form has existed for hundreds of years – and persistently exists today, though many are unaware of this fact.
Most are familiar with the slave trade of the 1400s and beyond. Instituted by Europeans, the slave trade captured and held in bondage millions of Africans from across the continent, eventually selling them for labor or sexual exploitation. This practice flourished in countries like Spain, the growing United States, Holland, France, Sweden, and Denmark for centuries.
It was not until the late 1700s and 1800s that governments began to declare the Transatlantic slave trade illegal, with Great Britain setting the example in 1807 and the United States following in 1820 – the slave trade became a crime punishable by death, but many years passed before more widespread freedom was achieved. The Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 largely put an end to slavery, and the Thirteenth Amendment of 1866 abolished it.
It was after the recognition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade as immoral that governments began to discuss “white slavery,” the term used at the time for sexual human trafficking. 1904 saw the passage of the International Agreement for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic, written into law by European monarchs, and 12 countries signed the International Convention for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic. The League of Nations soon changed the name from “white slavery” to “traffic in women and children.”
The late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries saw gains for the movement against human trafficking. In 2000, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act addressed modern-day slavery, becoming the first federal law to do so. The American charity group Free The Slaves, part of Anti-Slavery International, was also formed. In 2007, the United States Senate ratified the resolution establishing January 11th as National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. In 2010, President Obama dedicated the entire month of January to awareness and prevention of human trafficking. Today, there are over 50 established organizations that globally combat this illegal practice, and more awareness has been raised than ever before.