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Human Trafficking, Justice, and CSI

2009 November 16
by Julie Clawson

csi nyI’ve gotten used to popular TV shows going the after-school special route and highlighting some issue or another.  Granted, it boosts their ratings, but it also brings attention to issues that need attention.  So I was intrigued this past week when the CSI franchise did a story-arc across all three shows that focused on the issue of human trafficking.  It pulled no punches.  They showed the horror involved in trafficking and what a complicated system it is.  From moving girls around to sell for sex, or as wombs, or for body parts there are a lot of people making money off of the exploitation of others.  And there are so many people involved in such a large and complex system, that there are no easy solutions to the problems.  The CSI’s weren’t able in other words to solve the crime and and have all the perpetrators behind bars by the end of the 60 minute episode.  The writers were smart enough not to trivialize the issue by giving it a neat solution.  But they were also smart enough to make trafficking about real people.  These girls aren’t just nameless faces – they are someone’s daughter.  And even if those working for justice can’t fix the entire system, they can do something to help one girl, and that is significant.

They also hit the (obvious) nail on the head in trying to explain why this happens.  Basically because the demand is there.  Trafficking isn’t just some evil crime committed by sociopaths, it’s done by corrupt and greed guys who know that there is a high demand for human flesh.  If the businessmen at conferences in Vegas weren’t looking for sex on demand then kidnapping, abusing, raping, and breaking women into submissive prostitutes wouldn’t be such a lucrative business.  But evil and injustice continue to exist because we demand it.  From cheap sex to cheap clothes or candy, we demand that others be oppressed for our benefit.

At one point in the CSI episode, the bad-guy of the week, a Russian pimp (played by the amazing Mark Sheppard), tried to justify why girls supposedly choose to be prostitutes.  He said, “inside, [all women] are whores. They will love to hear the things they want to believe – they are so beautiful, so fascinating, so special that they deserve the best of everything, the finest clothes, champagne, and jewels that money can buy.  And you know how you get the whore to emerge? Tell her there is an easy way to get all of this.”  His words were ironic coming after the unfolding story of girls being kidnapped, drugged, raped, beaten, and murdered by traffickers.  Instead of describing the girls, they more accurately described the traffickers and the johns.  But they also describe all of us who have found easy ways to get whatever we want even if it is at the expense of others.  We will sell our souls because we believe we deserve the best of everything.

The sad thing is, there are no CSI’s out there working to put us behind bars so that the oppression stops.  We are not going to be punished for benefiting from crimes like human trafficking and slave labor.  And we wont be rewarded either for choosing to step outside of systems of oppression.  There is no carrot or stick when it comes to making a deliberate choice to love others.  We just have to decide that we care enough for someone else’s daughter or son to stop demanding that they be oppressed so that we can have everything we desire.


8 Responses leave one →
  1. linds permalink
    November 16, 2009

    Right on.

  2. November 16, 2009

    “There is no carrot or stick when it comes to making a deliberate choice to love others.”

    Such a profound statement because of the depth of its truth. How easy it is to look at our own back accounts and justify purchasing a $5 t-shirt or a 75-cent cup of coffee. Living in such a consumer-oriented society makes it all the more difficult to make conscientious choices. It is much easier to think only of my own bank account than of what such miniscule costs mean to growers, designers, dyers, factory workers, and the environment.

    These are our struggles. There is no overt benefit or reprimand to living consciously; there is only the hope that in some small way, such actions start to change the trajectory. I think articles like this one help to make that difference.

  3. November 16, 2009

    And the unfortunate reality is that there is no CSI out there fighting for us when things go horribly wrong.

    I watched those episodes and thought of you, Julie, because of your passion for these issues. I’ve often wondered if these kind of shows (CSI, Law & Order, Criminal Minds, etc.) get such high ratings and continued success because we want to believe that if something bad happened to one of us, Horatio Cain, or someone like him would go to the mat for us. That there would be a police force (officer) who would care enough and have the resources to find our loved one. But that isn’t what happens. So we are left with the understanding that it really is up to each of us to bring hope (as Austen says above) in some small way, and change in some small way together.

  4. November 16, 2009

    Thanks for highlighting! Check out the work of Croydon Community Against Trafficking who are really encouraging a community line in the sand on this issue.

  5. November 18, 2009

    Sonja – great point about why these shows are so popular. We do want to know that there is someone out there working for justice. I recall a friend tell me once that after she was raped she went to report it to the police and they just laughed at her and said “you actually expect us to do something about that?” In reality in these systems there truly are no Horatio Cains or Gil Grissoms – but that’s why people who do truly care have to become those justice workers. We have to become the Justice League that we wish existed.

  6. November 23, 2009

    Thank you for this post on trafficking. I live and work in Cambodia. It is important to define evil and believe in other possibilities as we work toward the common good together

  7. November 24, 2009

    Powerful article. Very tragic. But if there were no demand, there’d be no market. Can’t we raise males to love and cherish women instead of abusing and abandoning them? Apparently not.

  8. Sabina permalink
    November 27, 2009

    I want to point out something you do not touch on. The demand of sex trafficking comes from Men. Men in countries such as the US, Canada and other western mordernised country actually think women want to be sex slaves.

    When are we going to hold men accountable for sex slavery. When are men going to hold othe men accountable for sex slavery. Sex slavery is no different than the slavery of black men and jewish men but today no men is a slave, only women are. Men are important they are seen as human beings and their human rights are important but women our human rights not so important at all.

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