Human Trafficking: A Growing Epidemic
By State Representative Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta)
Alexandria grew up in northwest Atlanta’s Bankhead community. Her mother began selling Alexandria to men for sex when she was only seven years old. As a result of her forced prostitution, Alexandria contracted HIV and died at the age of 19.
Unfortunately, Alexandria’s story is becoming all too common. Shocking acts of violence against women make headlines around the world more frequently than ever. More than 27 million people are enslaved in the world today – a greater number than at any other time in history. The majority of those enslaved are women and children who are victims of the ever-growing sex trafficking trade that occurs in almost every country throughout the world.
Thousands of women and children are trafficked into the United States for sexual purposes each year, with an estimated total of 700,000 victims in the last decade. In our own backyard, the City of Atlanta has become a haven for sex trafficking. Many unsuspecting young girls have fallen prey to schemes disguised as modeling and acting opportunities. Unfortunately, many of these young women become victims of unspeakable violence. Few reported cases are successfully prosecuted, and the penalties for perpetrators are minimal under the current law. Girls as young as seven years old have been found in international sex trade, and girls as young as nine years old have been found in sex trade occurring in the United States.
Sex trafficking of women and children is a multi-billion dollar industry and is often linked to organized crime, pornography, and other types of human trafficking. Victims of sex trafficking experience devastating physical, mental, and spiritual harm, and often suffer from sexually transmitted diseases, forced abortions, sterility, chemical dependence, and other horrific injuries.
More must be done to combat these heinous crimes, which is why I am asking you to please join me on March 8, International Women’s Day, in contacting our U.S. representatives and senators to ask for support in fighting human trafficking. It is critical that we urge Congress to pass legislation increasing criminal penalties for offenders involved in illegal human trafficking. This would provide greater assistance to the women and children who are victims of these heinous crimes, and to encourage increased action to fight human trafficking throughout the world.
Please take just a few minutes to celebrate International Women’s Day in a way that could save countless lives. Women and girls have made tremendous strides in their fight for equal human rights, but there are still challenges ahead. That’s why I plan to make sure my Congressmen hear about Alexandria’s story, and I hope you will too.
Representative Keisha Waites represents the citizens of District 60, which includes Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, parts of the City of Atlanta, and other portions of Fulton and Clayton counties. She was first elected into the House of Representatives in 2012, and currently serves as a member on the Transportation, Juvenile Justice (formerly Children & Youth), Public Safety and Homeland Security, Interstate Cooperation, and Special Rules committees.