Soroptimists highlights human traffcking

Soroptimists International of Oak Harbor is continuing its war against human trafficking this month.

Human trafficking is also referred to as “modern-day slavery,” or the exploitation of human beings for profit.

“Simply put, human trafficking means that someone has been tricked or forced into performing some kind of labor for someone else’s gain,” said Soroptimist member Nancy Fey, who is helping to organize the event.

The International Labor Organization estimates that approximately 12.3 million people are enslaved in forced or bonded labor, child labor, sexual servitude and involuntary servitude at any given time. Of the millions of people that are trafficked each year, the majority are women and children who end up working in the commercial sex industry.

In the early 1990s a surge of reports on human trafficking aroused enough international concern to motivate the United Nations to address this growing phenomenon.

The United States responded quickly with the Trafficking of Victims Protection Act, with three goals: prevention of trafficking; relief and financial assistance programs; and prosecution of traffickers.

In 2003 Washington State criminalized the offense of human trafficking, making it a Class A felony. Washington also established a confidential hotline for anyone who feels they have been trafficked. Call 1-888-373-7888.

In 2007 Soroptimist International launched a Human Trafficking Public Awareness Campaign with a special event on Dec. 2 called the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. In the United States the campaign launched on Jan. 11, 2008, the first National Day of Human Trafficking Awareness.

Soroptimist International of Oak Harbor is part of the international volunteer organization of business and professional women who work to improve the lives of women and girls, in local communities and throughout the world.

“Many projects directly and indirectly help those vulnerable to trafficking and also trafficking victims by giving women and girls economic skills and tools to achieve financial empowerment and independence and also providing direct aid to victims,” Fey said.

It’s unclear if human trafficking is a problem on Whidbey Island. “We think we have touches of it here,” Fey said.

On Jan. 14, the public is welcome to the Oak Harbor Elks Club to hear two keynote speakers, Detective Oscar Ramos and Detective Raymond Payette from Vancouver, B.C. They have spoken at numerous international conventions in Brazil, Australia, the United States and Canada and have established Project HOPE (Help Others Prevent Exploitation).

“Bringing a heightened awareness to our community of the tragedy involved with human trafficking is one of the goals of Soroptimist International of Oak Harbor as they promote the best for women,” Fey said. She can be reached at 240-8822.

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