Health | Women

Is human trafficking really one of ‘our’ issues?

Yes. It is.

The AJLI Board made a commitment to Leagues during the last Annual Conference to continue to provide opportunities for education about human trafficking, whether for sexual exploitation or forced labor. Our commitment to addressing this global problem is reflected in a panel at this year’s Annual Conference in Washington, with representatives from two organizations – Polaris Project and FAIR Girls – intimately involved in combating it. The focus will be on how Leagues and SPACs can move beyond awareness and member education and build programs to address the issue, particularly child sex trafficking, at the community level.

This is not a new issue for The Junior League. In fact, we have been collectively honored by the United Nations Association of New York for League-based initiatives in fighting against human trafficking. The honor recognized the work done at the state level by the New York State Public Affairs Committee of The Junior League (NYSPAC), the Junior Leagues of New Jersey State Public Affairs Committee (NJSPAC) and the Michigan State Council of Junior Leagues (MSC) as well as more localized efforts by individual Leagues in Los Angeles, Atlanta, New Orleans, Owensboro, KY and Westchester County, NY.

The eight Leagues represented by NJSPAC, in particular, have been active in the fight, and were among the key supporters of the Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection and Treatment Act, which was unanimously approved by both New Jersey’s Senate and Assembly in March; the bill is now waiting for Governor Chris Christie’s signature. NJSPAC’s efforts came as part of the New Jersey Coalition against Human Trafficking, an alliance that includes the New Jersey Catholic Conference, the League of Women Voters and the New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations.

Individual members also are involved at both the state and local levels. Sara Morley-LaCroix of the Junior League of Kalamazoo, for example, is also the co-founder of the Kalamazoo Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition (KAHTC), which was one of the key supporters of the new Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking led by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette to raise public awareness, train professionals on the signs of human trafficking, provide services for victims and collect data on human trafficking.

KAHTC is also a regional member of the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force and is working at the local level to provide training for Kalamazoo-area nurses, police officers and educators in recognizing the signs of human trafficking.

The comprehensive legislation, say its sponsors, will crack down on every aspect of trafficking by revising and expanding the state’s current laws to create a new human trafficking commission, criminalize additional activities related to human trafficking, upgrade certain penalties on existing human trafficking or related crimes, increase protections afforded to victims of human trafficking, and provide for increased training and public awareness on human trafficking issues.

A small step? Perhaps. But look to hear more about what has been done, what can be done, and how Leagues can step up the fight!

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