‘Stopping Traffic’: Filmmaker’s global mission to stop human trafficking

World Today

'Stopping Traffic': Filmmaker's global mission to stop human trafficking

Child sex slavery is a harsh reality in today’s world, but is often overlooked. The documentary “Stopping Traffic” is trying to change that.

CGTN’s Frances Read reports on one filmmaker’s efforts to heighten awareness about global human trafficking.
Follow Frances Read on Twitter @FrancesReadTV

“I was prostituted from 12-years-old to 16-years-old. I was beaten as a child, and sexually abused from five.”

The documentary, “Stopping Traffic,” is a film on a mission, diving into a hard to discuss subject.

It explores one of the largest criminal industries in the world, second only to drugs. According to the United Nations, human trafficking, both forced labor and forced sex work, is a $150 billion industry. Estimates place the current population of slaves in the tens of millions, half of whom are children.

It was those statistics that made Sadhvi Siddhali Shree, a monk from California, want to take action. So she traveled around the world, including the U.S., filming what she saw.

“This misconception is it doesn’t happen in the U.S., and it is happening in Third World countries,” filmmaker Sadhvi Siddhali Shree said.

Shree explored the Philippines, Vietnam, Iraq, and Mexico, but also America. According to Shree, California, Texas and Florida are the states with the highest amount of trafficking cases. Most don’t realize how wide spread the problem is.

Learn more about human trafficking

“People think it’s everybody else’s issue, but not our own, so that’s a huge misconception,” she explained.

And as she reveals in the movie, nothing could prepare Shree for what she found.

“They chop off the kids’ arms, they will make them blind by taking out their eyes – they will do whatever it takes to make money.”

Estimates say there are upwards of 20 million victims of human trafficking today.

Anti-trafficking agencies in California say at last count there were around a thousand cases of human trafficking reported every year, partly because the state is a gateway between North and Central America. Across the entire U.S., around 18,000 people are trafficked annually.

Kay Buck, of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, is among those trying to put an end to it.

“It is definitely a big problem. Los Angeles, in particular. Where we’re located, it’s considered a magnet where traffickers bring victims,” Buck said. “But we also serve a lot of immigrant victims who think they’re coming here for a great opportunity: a good job and way to support their families. They’re duped by the traffickers and enslaved for years and years, right here in Los Angeles.”

For her part, Shree hopes the film provides insight and continued awareness.

The U.N. passed a global plan of action in 2010, and this year is recommitting to its goals this year. This month, however, the spotlight on human trafficking awareness shows there’s still a long way to go.