Friday found me in Huntingdon, a town that is probably the stereotypical image many Americans have of quaint British hamlets, which is famous for being the birthplace of Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) and not much since. Jane, the legal manager of CHASTE, and I were on our way to the Women’s Housing Forum in London to hear a discussion of what reproductive health services NGOs are providing to at-risk youth.
As we walked around this picturesque town, and I was taking pictures of a medieval church that was so beautiful it almost looked fake, I realized that the UK and the US have a lot to learn from each other in terms of their ability to address human trafficking. It is such a complex issue that needs to be met and combated at various levels, including from a legal, public health, service, support, immigration, mental health and demand perspective. International collaboration will be critical in ending the modern slave trade, a practice that is so medieval in description, it it difficult to believe it is a reality. This may have been the result of deep reflection or the fact that, on the pub across the street, that painting of King George III, ironically, looked exactly like George Washington.
On Wednesday, I had paid a visit to the Royal Mews, the working stables of the royal family. The amount of effort expended to keep the royal stable running smoothly was staggering. In addition to the Rolls Royce Phantom were a number of carriages and coaches, including the four-ton, aptly named Gold State coach, which had so much gilding and decoration it made Donald Trump’s decorating style seem minimalist in comparison.
Visits to other tourist destinations had me thinking about long standing connections between the US and UK and how we can begin to build international collaboration to address human trafficking. Trafficking is a phenomenon that frequently requires the crossing of borders and, unless we begin to create joint strategies in countries of origin and destination, will be very difficult to address from an isolationist perspective.
Later on Friday afternoon, we heard a presentation from the Chief Executive of Brook London which operates a number of reproductive health clinics for at-risk youth throughout greater London. It was fascinating to hear about how they were attempting to address Britain’s teen pregnancy problem, the highest in Europe. The United States has the sad honor of having the highest teen pregnancy rates in the developed world.
Brook London’s CE mentioned that they did provide services to what she termed “unaccompanied minors,” some of whom were pregnant or had STIs (sexually transmitted infections). Some of their patients are almost certainly trafficked girls and women and this presentation reinforced the connections between human trafficking and public health. It is questionable whether their outreach coordinators, who are undeniably doing fantastic work, would be able to recognize a trafficked person without specialized training. Trafficking victims don’t wear labels and, for reasons of shame and fears of retribution against themselves or their families, their stories don’t come out easily. Could I recognize a trafficking victim? Could you?
Posted By Jennifer Hollinger
Posted Jun 9th, 2007