*Other articles on this topic: What We Don’t See: A Closer Look at Sex Trafficking, Child Sex Trafficking in Your Backyard, Yogis Unite to Put an End to Sex Trafficking
Sex trafficking horrifies everyone.
However, most of us don’t know much about this $32 billion criminal industry, which enslaves women and children for sex.
Part of the success of this business is that it’s hidden. Hidden by corrupt police officers and society’s shame, hard facts and stories can be hard to come by. But we do have some. And part of the solution to working against this criminal trade is to expose and discuss the facts that we do know.
The more we engage in dialogue and spread the word, the more we can support groups working hard to free and rehabilitate victims. The more access these groups have to the industry, the more knowledge we’ll have to expose it. Knowledge often translates into action. It did for me.
The more I learned about sex trafficking, the clearer it became that I had to do something. This fall, I founded the Yoga Freedom Project, an organization dedicated to uniting the yoga community around the issue of sex trade. Through events and education campaigns, we mobilize the yoga community to raise funds for anti-trafficking organizations that we strongly believe in, engage the community in dialogue about the issues and facts, and use the healing tools we have as yoga practitioners to work with survivors.
Right now, sex trade is an underground business that is mostly kept hidden from our view. But the more we talk about the facts, the more we can reveal the truth.
1. Shockingly, in the 21st century, in this age of freedom, more people are enslaved than at any other time in history. Some put the number at as high as 27 million.
2. Sex trafficking is one of the three largest criminal industries, following just behind arms and drugs. The market value of sex trafficking is $32 billion.
3. Conservatively, it’s estimated that 3 million women and children are enslaved for sex right now. Each is likely between the age of 12 and 14.
4. Young children are often sold into slavery by their own parents. In desperation, due to extreme poverty, parents feel they have no other choice.
5. In India, one of the hot beds of sex trade, children are sold into slavery as part of a religious tradition. Daughters are offered to temples as a gift. As young as eight or nine years old, these girls are used by priests for their sexual pleasure. When they’re older, they are sold into brothels.
6. Poverty is one root cause of sex trafficking. Destitution makes people desperate and vulnerable. It leaves them searching for a way out. Traffickers prey on this.
7. Police corruption is another. In many countries around the world, including India and Cambodia, police officers and government officials contribute to the growth of this industry. They visit brothels as customers and don’t enforce anti-trafficking laws.
8. To push back against this growing and thriving criminal trade, we must address the root causes of trafficking; create stronger prosecution and enforcement of laws; help victims recover and reintegrate back into society; and shift some societies’ beliefs and values about women.
As the NYC regional leader for Off the Mat, Into the World (OTM), I am excited for Yoga Freedom Project to be teaming up with OTM this year through OTM’s Global Seva Challenge India. We’ll be supporting the efforts of local groups in the country, which are actively battling the sex trafficking industry. Our attention will focus mostly on education and the empowerment and rehabilitation of survivors. To learn more about this challenge, click here.
Heather Snyder is the NYC regional leader for Off the Mat and currently lives in Brooklyn, NY. She is a yoga teacher, Alexander Technique teacher, and a birth doula. She is the founder of the Yoga Freedom Project whose mission is to unite the yoga community around the issue of sex trafficking. Heather is committed to bringing together communities of inspired, empowered, and like-minded people and exploring the possibilities of what a community can create together.