This month’s book club selection and discussion focused on Human Trafficking. This is part one of a three part guest blog series on the topic and it’s implications for CHAI.
CHAI is an organization dedicated to overcoming the barriers that South Asians in our area face in achieving mental health and wellness. The South Asian community is often over-looked as a population in need of assistance as the members and families in the community tend to be affluent and have access to resources. However, having access to resources and accessing them are two different things. Our work has informed us that South Asian women in this country experience isolation, mental illness, and gender – based pressures at a high rate and many do not know how to overcome the stigma attached to acknowledging these issues and seeking help. Women that are isolated from support, or who may experience low self – esteem, are vulnerable to predatory behaviors and more likely to be exploited by a trafficker. The conversation is just now starting to pick up in Maryland about human trafficking and CHAI intends to stay on the cusp of the wave of new information and initiative in order to best serve the South Asian Community through education about trafficking and the dangers of the crime, as well as how the population of those serving in this community can join the fight against this heinous and rapidly growing crime. As part of CHAI’s work to impact the mental health and wellness of South Asians in the Baltimore/ Washington Metropolitan area, we are joining the fight to keep Maryland’s girls safe from traffickers!
Having worked with young and old victims/survivors of labor and sex trafficking in the past, I am always wary about how authors and people sensationalize and dehumanize the people who have actually experienced human trafficking. Last Sunday, July 22nd, I entered the CHAI Book Club hostess’ warm, welcoming home I quickly realized that having a platform where people from all walks of life could engage in a topic that is usually not discussed/processed is probably the best starting point for any action to be taken. It is in this intimate space where people are moved, transformed and are open to share and challenge one another. The women discussed the history and acceptance of sex work in different cultures along with recognizing the exploitation piece within this context. Discussion topics also ranged from the history of courtesans, child brides, pornography, and current day sex workers from all over the world to unpacking the concepts of choice versus enslavement/exploitation of humans.
The highlight definitely was when the author Corban Addison shared his life journey of not knowing much about India or human trafficking and taking action through writing. The author really managed to connect with all the women who were all of South Asian decent. It was very impressive that he talked about his White American male perspective and really processed that piece when he was writing his book. He really emphasized that though India was his novel’s setting, the issue of human trafficking is not specific to India, but a worldwide issue with a very lucrative and organized international industry. He shared the exorbitant demand for sex for purchase here in the United States. In the end, everybody in the room really saw how we are all feeding into and are equally vulnerable to human trafficking. Most importantly, all of us came out with a sense of how we can create change in our present lives and current policies. We were also reminded again to really recognize and value the strengths/difficulties, understanding the nuances and repercussions of community inclusion for the women and children who are facing specific situations of human trafficking before going in and “rescuing” them from their current way of life.
One of the key takeaways was raising awareness on this topic and moving past our uneasiness in addressing all types of human trafficking. Two more posts will share more information on the topic of human trafficking along with resources and what one can do to take action against it.
HoCoAGAST is a group in Maryland working to combat slavery and trafficking, who generously consulted with CHAI many times as book club and their discussion was planned and progressed. They are a key voice in the field of awareness and prevention. They are also a member of the Maryland Rescue and Restore Coalition. Click the link to learn more about their recent work and actions taken. HT, HO CO AGAST in ACTION
Join us next time as we explore the topic of parenting…