There has been a recent increase in media coverage of the global problem of sex trafficking and slavery. Long ignored by Americans or thought to be a Third World issue, practices of sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking victimize thousands of people (typically girls and women) in the United States each year; there are also many people across the world that are forced into slave labor.

CNN has launched The Freedom Project, an interactive site that provides information about the modern day slave trade and resources for those who want to get involved. There is also “Life In Slavery,” a section that features stories of people who have been enslaved; a recent entry details the horrors Flor Malina experienced while enslaved for 40 days shortly after her baby died due to her inability to afford medical care. Desperate for work and the opportunity to get to America, she found herself in the hands of traffickers who brought her to a sweatshop in Los Angeles’ Garment District.

While I was happy to hear that celeb-activist couple Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher had gotten active in the fight to end global enslavement, I was a bit disappointed by the first commercial to emerge from their Real Men Don’t Buy Girls campaign, which stars Justin Timberlake:

The heteronormalizing of “real man” behavior aside, the spot is confusing and does little to highlight the problem at hand. However, the considerable star power of the campaign (which also counts Jamie Foxx, Eva Longoria and others as participants) will hopefully still bring increased awareness to the cause.

Moore and Kutcher first announced their efforts in September at a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative.  “The assumption is that slavery is a thing of the past,” Kutcher told reporters. “But there are more slaves in the world today than ever before. There are currently 27 million human slaves.” The campaign, which is run under the couple’s DNA Foundation, will focus on ending sex trafficking and also combating the practice of using the internet to facilitate child sexual exploitation and the transmission of child pornography.

GEMS (Girls Education and Mentoring Services) is a New York based organization that seeks to end sexual exploitation of young women and girls. The average age of entry in to sex work is thirteen. Founded by Rachel Lloyd, an activist and survivor of sexual exploitation, GEMS provides support for these girls while working tirelessly to end sex trafficking, transform the public perception of survivors, victims and to fix the broken legal and political systems that treat victims like criminals.

The organization produced the film Very Young Girls, which highlights the commercial sexual exploitation of girls in New York City. As the film details, young women and girls are abused by pimps and treated like adults by the law.


Note: Very Young Girls will be screened Tuesday, April 26th in Brooklyn at the Long Island University, as a fundraiser for GEMS and in partnership with the Delta Rho Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. For tickets, check out the event page on Facebook. If you are interested in learning more about GEMS, visit their site. For more information about the DNA Foundation, click here. Also, be sure to visit CNN’s Freedom Project for additional resources.

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