NAUGATUCK – The recent kidnapping of more than 200 young women in Nigeria over the past month has captivated the attention of the entire world. Political instability within the country’s government have sparked the radical Islamic group, Boko Haram, which is loosely translated as “Western civilization is forbidden,” to maliciously act out against those with differing views.
On the night of April 14th, approximately 276 Christian schoolgirls from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Nigeria, were taken at gunpoint while attending their final exams in physics by the militant group. In the weeks prior to the exam, the school had been closed due to security issues, which has sparked controversy with whether the girls should have been at the school on the night of the intrusion. Despite the continuous efforts of trying to find these girls, the rescue has yet to occur after more than a month. Other countries, including the United States, have offered their resources to the Nigerian government – such as the implementation of wireless drones to monitor the country.
Boko Haram has released numerous videos which allegedly depict the girls and the intentions of the group. As reported by CNN, “[t]he appearance of [the girls] ‘unharmed’ makes it look like Boko Haram is doing this for legitimate Islamic purposes to win a prisoner exchange – as opposed to sex slavery,” which was the initial thought by the public of this attack.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau stated in a public video that the terrorist group will not release the girls “until after you release our brethren.” His comrades are imprisoned within the confines of the Nigerian legal system. Even though it appears as though their intentions are not for sexual reasons, their abduction of the girls and the subsequent loss of their freedom is still considered human trafficking.
According to Love146, an anti-human-trafficking group headquartered in New Haven, about 20.9 million people are enslaved around the world; about 2 million are considered to be in similar circumstances as the 276 girls in Nigeria. When human trafficking becomes a topic of conversation, most think of the sex trade in Africa, Turkey, Thailand or other foreign countries, yet human trafficking is quite prominent in the United States. Love146 reports that the United States in known for trafficking of labor exploitation. Immigrants, typically females, who come to the U.S. will accept jobs at less than minimum wage – or even no pay – in order to meet basic needs. Women also from other countries are sold to johns, or sex traffickers, in the U.S. by their families to earn extra income. Such illegal activities are being stopped daily, yet there are still millions of enslaved people around the world.
Shandra Woworuntu, an activist against human trafficking as well as a former victim, was brought to the U.S. from Indonesia to service men in the underground sex slave industry. In 2001, Shandra arrived here under false pretenses that she was going to be getting a minimum wage job as a waitress. After paying about $3,500, her passport and identification were taken away by the people who brought her over. In an interview with the New Haven Register Woworuntu said, “[t]hey locked me up. I couldn’t open the door. I opened the window to try and jump from the second floor, but it was too high so I wouldn’t escape.”
“There are a lot of things that we don’t know about that happen in the U.S.,” said Senior Sabrina Sharp. “and human trafficking might be one of those things.” The taking of someone else’s liberty seems to anger people, yet when asked, many believe slavery and human trafficking occur in other places. But it doesn’t. It happens here, in the United States, to people looking for better lives. By talking about the injustices, we as a society could help bring about the end to this devastating practice.
Said Senior Tara Mahoney, “More people are affected than we know. It’s worth doing something about.”