Forum brings awareness to human trafficking

David Saakyan

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Wanda Pathomrit, Vice President of Asian Americans for Community and Talent introduces the panel of speakers during the Human Trafficking forum on Wednesday. Photo Credit: Armando Ruiz/Staff Photographer

Human trafficking was the center of discussion in a forum that sprung from last semester’s sex tourism controversy.

Organized by the Department of Asian American Studies and the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, the event  held Wednesday in the Northridge Center in the USU, focused on victims of human trafficking and sex tourism in third-world countries and the U.S.

“The triumph of eradicating human trafficking is when regular people begin to react,” said Sandra Stanley, chair of Asian American Studies.

Stanley said the on-going battle to raise awareness for human trafficking is through the relentless efforts and battles of modern day abolitionists.

According to the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN GIFT), nearly 2.5 million people are in forced labor at any given time due to human trafficking. The majority of these victims are between the ages of 18 and 24.

It’s facts like these that influenced Julia Morales, Central American and sociology major, to attend the forum, she said.

“I had already discussed these issues in a lot of my classes,” said Morales, 24. “Human trafficking is an issue we all need to bring to attention and I love the people they brought for the forum.”

Dr. Harry Hellenbrand, provost and vice president for academic affairs, was one of many members who spoke at the event. Hellenbrand said the solution to stop human trafficking is a difficult one but can be established through raising an important question.

“How it is that human trafficking exists through the midst of civilization, especially here in the United States?” Hellenbrand asked.

He also encouraged attendees to “think spiritually to what it is in our nature that condemns human trafficking to exist.”

After finding out about economics professor Kenneth Ng’s website, the CSUN community reacted.

“I was mortified when I first heard about this,” said Melanie Williams, chair of business law. My response was ‘how could this news be out there about CSUN?’”

Students in response to the controversy came up with a dramatic skit.

The Performance Ensemble  acted out a skit called “Sexonomics” and performed a scene with six students pretending to be Thai prostitutes forced to memorize a number of different steps in pleasing their customers under relentless pressure from their pimp.

One of the panelist at the event was Flor Molina, who is a member of Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST).

Molina was once a victim of Mexico’s labor trafficking. She spoke about her experiences working at an illegal workshop in Los Angeles and how she managed to escape after 40 days.

“The reason why I began to speak out is because I wanted to help those who are in the same situation I was once in,” Molina said.

With so much of the focus at the forum on sex trafficking in Thailand, CSUN invited Damrong Kraikruan, Counsel General of Thailand to speak about the current situation in his native country.

“This is a global issue and it deserves global attention,” Kraikruan said.

He also said the rise of sex trafficking in Thailand can be associated with poverty and the current economic condition of the country.

“The number of people living below the poverty line has been reduced and we see the number of girls staying in schools in Thailand increasing,” said Kraikruan. “People have slowly begun to change their attitudes and are willing to give girls’ education a chance.”

The reality of human trafficking existing right here in the United States was an eye-opener for CSUN student Julio Ramos, Central American studies major.

“This lecture brought to my attention how high of a demand there really is for sex trafficking right here in the U.S.” said Ramos. “The forum did a wonderful job in putting how human trafficking is affecting American society.”