Today is Human Trafficking Awareness Day

As a major national and international transportation corridor and a culturally diverse state, New Jersey is a prime location for human trafficking. (For an example of this, read Peter Landesman’s excellent article on this subject in the New York Times.)

That’s why the New Jersey Coalition against Human Trafficking has been asking towns to issue proclamations in support of National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, which president Obama declared as January 11.

Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson and the Town Council approved the proclamation last month. This week, Cedar Grove and West Orange also issued proclamations.

The Montclair proclamation states, “We recognize that human trafficking is modern-day slavery, a practice that is in direct opposition to the fundamental principles of liberty and human rights upon which our nation was founded.”

The proclamation was presented to League of Women Voters, Montclair Area Chair of the Women and Family Issues Committee, Elizabeth Santeramo, and Board Member Doris Schapira; to Junior League of Montclair-Newark, Inc. President Jessica Lane and member Lynne Brennen; the Junior Leagues of NJ State Public Affairs Committee Chair Patricia Devine Harms, and to Ingrid Johnson, RN, MSN, representing Overlook Medical Center, a member of Atlantic Health System. These women are part of a community-wide initiative of the newly launched New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking.

Human trafficking has been called a form of modern day slavery that involves the use of force, fraud, and/or coercion for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor. Contrary to popular belief, it does not require movement of people across borders.

According to community leaders Patricia Devine Harms, Ingrid Johnson, and Elizabeth Santeramo, “This proclamation will be the impetus for community and governmental action against slavery in New Jersey. The Coalition believes that the first step in ending human trafficking is to pass local legislation that raises awareness about the issue and encourages individuals, businesses, organizations and governing bodies to oppose Human Trafficking in all its forms.”

To mark Human Trafficking Awareness Day, a rally is being held at the State House in Trenton today.

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