February 20th: World Day for Social Justice


Conor Adams, an AS-level student at Banbridge Academy, weighs in on the importance of social justice in particular relation to human trafficking.

Every day, men, women, and children are transported from town to town, nation to nation, to fuel history’s largest slave trade. Right now, there are 36.8 million people in bondage to slave drivers, pimps, and traffickers. This industry makes nearly $32 billion a year and is the second most profitable organised criminal activity in the world.

So what exactly is Human Trafficking?

Human Trafficking is the trade of human beings to facilitate slave labour, sexual exploitation and other abuses of power that exploit the most vulnerable in our society. Trafficking affects people of all genders, races, and nationalities.

Human trafficking directly affects 36.8 million people worldwide but nearly everyone owns a product, or uses a service, provided by slave labour. Across the developing world, impoverished people accept – or are forced into, due to their financial situation – jobs with little to no pay. Under these slave masters, they are subject to abuse in all its ugly shapes and forms and are not granted access to fundamental human rights. Everything from the coffee in your morning cup to the clothes on your back has potentially been sourced from an organisation using illicit slave labour.

Even if it isn’t baring its face in the ugly reality of men and women locked in buildings and being forced to walk city streets in search of potential customers, trafficking still affects all of us, and we, as human beings, are repulsed by it. Why?

There is an ideal in effect here: social justice.

Social justice is the active seeking of justice for all people regardless of race, religion, or creed. A just society seeks to create a fairer, more sustainable, and better world by upholding human rights and distributing opportunities, wealth, and resources effectively to create a society that supports that vulnerable and protects the weak. Social justice provides a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Why exactly is trafficking a breach of social justice?

Trafficking undermines the basic human right to live without being, “held in slavery or servitude” (Article 4, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights) and denies individuals access to basic freedoms. Trafficking prevents individuals, and whole communities, from living in a safe, secure, and ultimately free society by driving the most vulnerable into an even more vulnerable position and abusing their fundamental humanity.

The importance of social justice, then, is self-evident when we realise that our society is built on principles of social justice and human liberties. Without an active voice for social justice, we would not benefit from the social welfare programs in this country in particular, or an upholding of human rights set out in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. This clearly juxtaposes nations and regions where social justice is not so deeply enshrined in the national ethos and corruption and destitution seem to reign supreme.

This all seems horrendous, and I’m only one person: what can I do to help?

It’s not as hard as it seems. A simple re-thinking of buying habits and leaning towards certified products – like Fairtrade, or Rainforest Alliance – will take money out of the hands of traffickers. Money and greed drives all forms of trafficking, and without funds, traffickers can’t transport human beings into slavery.

As members of a free and democratic nation, we all have the ability to petition our government. Everyone can become involved in raising an awareness of human trafficking and acting on that awareness by living a socially sustainable life.

$10.8bn is the cost of liberating all people enslaved in the world today based on estimates from Kevin Bales of Free the Slaves. He suggests that, on average, it costs $400 to liberate a person from bondage and help them set up a sustainable and economically stable life following emancipation.

Stopping slavery today isn’t an impossible task. We have the knowledge and resources to make a massive impact in our world and when we direct our collective focus towards an issue like his, we can truly see a future with no more traffik.

Conor Adams