Human trafficking expert Cecilia Hyunjung Mo is optimistic about the progress being made on a bipartisan bill to fight human trafficking. But she says additional steps must be taken by lawmakers, companies and consumers.
“The bill expands important services for victims of human trafficking, and increases the penalties of trafficking men, women and children,” said Mo, assistant professor of political science at Vanderbilt University. “But more steps need to be made to protect victims of labor trafficking, and ensure American companies abroad are helping stop forced labor trafficking.”
Mo insists American lawmakers and companies need to get better information to U.S. consumers so they can make economic choices that could fight labor trafficking.
“When you want to have that glitter in your makeup, do you know that it is coming from little girls in India who are sitting and picking at minerals?” Mo says. “If you know that, are you OK with not consuming makeup with that glitter component in it? I’d like to think that’s the case.”
Mo recently received a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to test the effectiveness of public awareness campaigns about forced labor and worse forms of child labor in China and Nepal.
This situation is in large part an issue of poverty, repression and insecurity, Mo says. It is only solvable by providing safe economic options for impoverished and insecure people to advance themselves. However, increased awareness around potential outcomes to particular labor and migration decisions may still help families make informed decisions that put themselves and their families at less risk.
Mo says the number of enslaved or trafficked individuals today is estimated anywhere from 10 to 30 million worldwide and an additional 215 million children are engaged in child labor. That contrasts with the 12.5 million who were enslaved during the 350 years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.