“Slavery: Here and Now,” a panel discussion on human trafficking, hosted in St. Aloysius Church, was a heart-wrenching and enlightening turning point of my life. It was held on October 23rd, and attracted a good number of males, females and people from numerous backgrounds. State Senator Perkins opened the panel, where he quoted a renowned trafficking defendant, Kate Mogulescu on how we should not use the word “slavery,” when it comes to the issues of human trafficking. But how else do we correctly term such a demeaning experience; a practice that subjugates beings perceived to be not as worthy as everyone else?
I found it to be heart-wrenching because of the cases raised about human beings who were and still are, being treated this way. I felt anger towards the traffickers who got away with it. I tried to think about the restrictions and abuse a person goes through when put in such circumstances. And then something inside me clicked.
I realized how back home in Bangladesh, labor trafficking is so common we tend to completely ignore it. I am not talking about the garments industry, which of course can also be discussed at great and heated length.
Many middle-income to upper-class Bangladeshis employ household help. In many cases they are children and women, though we should not forget the men in the picture too. The children are paid very low, overworked, and verbally and physically abused. I thought about these instances during the discussion in St. Aloysius Church and asked the panelists if this was “human trafficking” too. A smart answer to this was that the signs of a trafficked person should not be confused with some sort of check list to prove whether he/she meets such a category. This was my moment of enlightenment.
I was quite oblivious to this in Bangladesh. It was on October 23rd that I realized what was happening there is just completely wrong. The traffickers of these so-called “helpers” do not dominate others for any monetary gratification, but rather abuse and humiliate others because, well it is normal in our society. What I took from that day is my critique of a collectivist society: you need others’ approval of what is ethical.
And now I need to enlighten others.