I've heard personal stories, and I've read stories on BBC.
The personal story I heard was in Lombok, two islands east of Java. The man I was talking to was the driver of a public van/bus my sister, friend, and I were riding. As usual I asked him about his family, his job, his story. I wasn't ready to hear his story, even though I should have been. I'd read about human trafficking and even started a chapter of the International Justice Mission on my campus (an organization that addresses justice issues such as trafficking). But there's something about hearing a personal story of injustice that truly awakens the reality to you, regardless of how many reports you've read and numbers you've seen.
Stories make a difference.
He told me he was a widower with two little kids. His wife's stomach became big and they thought she was pregnant but it was something else. She died from "water in her stomach" and 2 months after her death he left his little kids with his family and went to work in Saudi Arabia for two years. The kids needed food and they were approaching school age. Education here isn't free. He lasted only a year because the abuse was so intense the the pay so little that he escaped and came back to Indonesia with nothing but the clothes on his back. He told me some people get their lips cut off, because their bosses are mad that they can't speak Arabic. Now he works as a van driver and doesn't make enough to put his kids through school.
There are several things wrong with this picture. First, the health care system that made it difficult for his wife to go to the hospital before it was too late. Second, the fact that school is not free. Third, immigration services out of Indonesia didn't protect him when we went to work in Saudi Arabia. I want to address the third issue. Migration isn't the problem. People often migrate with no trouble. It can be beneficial for both the sending country and the receiving country. There are about one million Indonesian migrant workers in the Middle East. The problem is the lack of protection for the workers.
In November there was the story about the Indonesian maid whose body was found dumped in the street. In addition to gashes on her face there were cuts to her lips, which makes me think that she may have been punished for not speaking Arabic like the man I met on Lombok said.
Last month there was the story about the Indonesian employee who went to the hospital severely beaten and near death. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12151454
Her story ends differently.
She survived and amazingly her employer was "convicted under a new royal decree against human trafficking" and is now in jail for abusing Sumiati.
I ranted about it during college and I'll say it again. Human trafficking is real and it's a problem. Speaking out against it and sticking the stories and the statistics in the face of governments makes a difference. Telling people's stories makes a difference. Pushing for new laws makes a difference. There are people today living in slavery. Desperate conditions make them take risky jobs that land them in positions they can't escape from. Either work toward improving their initial conditions, work toward getting them out of the place of slavery that they are in, or work toward letting the world know that slavery like this happens, and it's not ok.
A better world is possible, but it's not going to happen with us sitting on our bums.
And in case you think this is a third world problem, look up human trafficking statistics for the US. You who are in bordering states especially (ie, Arizona....) The numbers are scary. Just because you can't see them doesn't mean they aren't there. There are chains to break, work towards breaking them.
Email me if you have an interest in the anti-trafficking movement in the US.