- Posted March 20, 2014 by
Cambridge, United Kingdom
Can we envision the end of human trafficking?
By Mark Esposito & Terence Tse
The experience of human trafficking is hidden by most media outlets and we often consider it as an absurd, at times untrue problem, given its distance from our daily world, but this is an erroneous impression. In several villages of Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and the whole of South East Asia, there live young people who are kept enslaved as sex workers. Many of these young girls are under age and they may have been trapped in a vicious and depriving system against their own will, via a false promise of a better life.
During our time at the World Economic Forum, we met Eunice Olsen, who has worn several hats in her life, among which the one of goodwill ambassador for the INGO and an activist in the field of women’s rights, hygiene for young girls and human trafficking.
What Eunice witnesses when she does her field trips to what we could consider closed houses-prisons- for these young girls, is a world untapped by the large media reports, which continue to dedicate more air time to head of states’ chronicles, than to problems of this kind. To fill that gap, Eunise has decided to personally engage in the dissemination of the truth, so that more and more people can get sensitized about this true social cancer and act towards the end of this modern slavery.
Her movie, 3.50, the first ever co-production between Singapore and Cambodia has been premiered in October 2013 and it continues to be broadcast in Asia, as a tribute to the message this movie wants to convey: sex and human trafficking are much more extended than what we can think. It happens in Asia, in some urban slums, forgotten by many or it happens in luxurious downtowns, populated by rich investment bankers who exploit sexually these children. Yes children, because this is who we are talking about.This issue has been echoing since months now and some prominent news channels, like CNN have dedicated a whole series of journalistic coverage and documentaries to the issue of human trafficking, in what they called CNN Freedom Project, to end modern slavery.
But even in the reputed Davos, this past January, in a session titled ‘Doing business the right way’, Indra Nooyi, Chairperson and CEO of PepsiCo. USA said: “We must change the dialogue from what we do with the money we make to how we make the money. There is an ethical way to run a company and be profitable.”
This is where the reflection touched us more directly, as business school professors and advocates of liberal markets as a way to address societal tension. Human trafficking is a byproduct first and side effect in a second instance, of a flawed capitalism. A type of capitalism that externalizes costs to the expenses of the most vulnerable individuals of our societies- these young girls being a good example of that.
The large profits of many corporations are inducing a perverted distance between the access to opportunities and the control of human and capital resources, as the increasing gap of inequality wants to demonstrate. Sex trafficking is often a non-choice for those who are only guilty to dream of a better future.
How can business address the increasing tension between rich and poor in the south-east-asian economies is also a matter of vital resolution of human trafficking as part of the past and no longer the future.
While calls for tougher penalties against errant companies have been made, legislation against human trafficking still varies from country to country. And even if the political will exists, there is then the issue of enforcement. Despite these obstacles, we, as individuals, shareholders, employees and consumers can put pressure on brands to be more responsible and vigilant. We can demand for a type of consumption, which moves away from any sort of exploitation, because it is a righteous thing to ask.
Human trafficking, be it sex, labor, child or in any other shape or form is modern day slavery. We should not allow it to perpetuate any further. A good first step is to not shut up about it. Speak up. Because in the end, we’re responsible for everything we do and for everything we don’t.
N.B. Photo extracted from scene of 3.50 the movie