For some, today will run as normal with errands, classes, work, meetings, and maybe a social gathering. For others, however, today is an extension of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty, as they are victims of modern-day slavery and human trafficking.
The latter is why the red Xs are taking social media by storm.
Congressmen and women, celebrities, and students who live down the hall are all taking part in changing their profile photos to a red X. Some will also sport a red X on their hands or clothing. This gesture is part of the End It Movement’s “Shine a Light on Slavery” Day.
Now in its fifth year, the movement has more momentum than ever. Government officials and advocates have held numerous hearings and passed legislation about slavery and trafficking, including celebrity Ashton Kutcher. Just last week, he attended a Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting about ending modern slavery.
“As part of my anti-trafficking work, I’ve met victims in Russia. I’ve met victims in India. I’ve met victims have been trafficked from Mexico. I’ve met victims in New York and New Jersey and all across our country. I’ve been on FBI raids where I’ve seen things that no person should ever see,” He said. “I’ve seen video content of a child that’s the same age as mine being raped by an American man that was a sex tourist in Cambodia. And this child was so conditioned by her environment that she thought she was engaging in play.”
More than 21 million people are enslaved in more than 160 countries. The majority of those people are slavery victims and 22 percent are sold in sex slavery, 55 percent of those people being women and girls, and 26 percent being children under 18. Although the U.S. does not have nearly as many victims as other countries, particularly India, there are still approximately 60,000 victims within its borders.
The organization Free the Slaves defines slavery as being forced to work without pay, under violent threats, and unable to leave the situation. Currently, many of these victims work in farm fields, factories, mines, construction sites, restaurants, hotels, stores, brothels, and many other places. The U.S. Department of labor even found that these victims are forced to make 139 products from 75 countries, including diamonds, tobacco, shoes clothes, and food.
To help combat the $150 billion industry, Sen. Bob Corker introduced legislation on Feb. 24, 2015 to help eliminate the phenomena. It finally passed on Dec. 23, 2016 and is included in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017. The legislation creates funding for a non-profit foundation in Washington, D.C. that will fund anti-slavery programs and projects.
Corker explained how he saw the reality of modern slavery and demanded the U.S. make a commitment to end it.
“Despite the pervasive nature of this horrific practice, modern slavery is a crime of opportunity that thrives where enforcement is weak, so raising the risk of prosecution can achieve significant results,” he said. “BY providing strong U.S. leadership and leveraging our limited foreign aid dollars, this initiative will work with foreign governments and philanthropic organizations to match the funding being provided by the United States and create a coordinated effort to implement best practices to eliminate modern slavery and human trafficking around the globe.”
While sporting a red X may seem as it does not help the situation, the display of solidarity shows victims that they are not alone. People are encouraged to download the End It Movement’s campaign resources, change their social media photos, wear red lipstick, wear red Xs on their hands, and more. The official hashtags for the movement are #EndSlaveryAct and #EndItMovement.
Helping spread awareness of the issue is the first step in addressing the problem. Most people are not aware at how vast and dangerous this crime is, and today is the day to change that. Share the information about what’s happening in the world with friends, family, and peers, and use the hashtags #EndSlaveryAct and #EndItMovement to join in the movement.
Making change is difficult, but showing solidarity is simple.