Reyes: Human trafficking is in every community
Cheyenn Clayburn | Staff Writer
There are more than two million children worldwide that are enslaved in the commercial sex trade industry. According to a 2013 Congressional Research Service report, there are more than 17,000 people that are trafficked into the United States alone. Many of these individuals are forced into slave labor, used to harvest organs or exploited for sex.
These facts were given by Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and Operation Underground Railroad Founder and CEO Timothy Ballard at the Fourth International Women of the Mountains Conference, which was held Oct. 7-9 in the Ragan Theater.
During the conference, Reyes and Ballard talked about their rescue trip to Baru, Columbia with OUR, a Utah-based nonprofit organization that works with various governments worldwide to prevent and stop child trafficking.
While there, OUR set up a sting operation by posing as wealthy businessmen with the intent of investing in a cartel. The traffickers were to bring all of the girls to celebrate the deal at a party. After the deal was made, operatives waited for the local authorities to show up. After 50 minutes of impromptu talking with the cartel, the local authorities arrived and arrested the traffickers.
This operation resulted in the rescue of 54 children.
“This was a life-altering experience for me,” Reyes said.
After recounting the rescue mission, Reyes said the key to helping stop human trafficking is to be aware that it is happening around us and report it.
“Don’t kid yourself. This is happening in every community,” Reyes said.
The Women of the Mountains organization was formed when former Kyrgyz Republic’s Ambassador to the United States and Canada, Baktybek Abdrisaev, came to UVU to teach history and political science. Abdrisaev wanted to connect Utah to other mountain communities around the world, so he created a collaboration with UVU and the International University of Kyrgyzstan, with the support of Mountain Partnership in Rome, Italy.
The purpose of the International Women of the Mountains Conference was to bring awareness and build support to assist in the sustainable development of mountain communities around the world, specifically how it applies to women and children.
“This year’s conference was an example of ultimate engagement,” Rusty Butler, associate vice president of International Affairs said. “It was organized and run completely by the students.”
Other key issues that were addressed in this year’s conference included transmitting family values, heritage and culture, health of women and children, education of women and children, economic issues of women and children and leadership for women.