As the calendar slides over into a new year it brings us to January. A time to reflect on the New Year but also the month that is dedicated to awareness of the social issue of human trafficking. With January 11th being national human trafficking awareness day. Even with the media attention, and major religious and political figures speaking out as well as Ivanka Trump bring awareness and campaigns to draw attention to the issue of human trafficking, much of the world still does not know about human trafficking or chooses to not pay attention to this issue.
The issue is something that Matthew Marshall and his company m & s Marshall productions has focused on within the productions they have made. In the summer of 2013 award winning film director Matthew Marshall embarked on an independent film called “Daughter of the King” in which he was the writer and was to be the film’s director and producer. One of the film’s central themes to the story line was debt slavery and human trafficking. The film went on to be released in August 2014 and brought awareness to the issue during it’s premiere in London Ontario. It went on to win 32 awards, receive 16 official selections, 3 nominations and one finalist award in film festivals around the world. Including winning a number of prestigious awards that dealt with shining a light on the issue of human trafficking.
For those unaware the issue of Human trafficking is the illegal trade of human’s against their will for the purpose of sexual exploitation, forced labour or modern day slavery. Millions of men, women, and children around the world and even right in Canada and the USA are being human trafficked. Human trafficking is one of the cruellest forms of modern day slavery and is the fastest growing. After drug dealing, human trafficking is the second largest crime industry in the world. There are over 30 million people that live in some form of slavery in the world today. That is more than any other time in our history. Including those taken from Africa during 300 years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The Globe sex slavery market generates a $39 billion dollar profit annually. Sex Slavery and commercial sexual exploitation constitutes the majority of the demand that drives human trafficking.
Human trafficking victims or those trapped in modern day slavery are bought, sold, beaten, and abused, locked in compelled service and hidden in darkness. They toil in factories and fields; in brothels and sweatshops; at sea, abroad, an at home. They are victims of human trafficking—a crime that amounts to modern-day slavery. This modern-day slavery occurs in countries throughout the world and in communities across our Nation. These victims face a cruelty that has no place in a civilized world: children are made to be soldiers, teenage girls are beaten and forced into prostitution, and migrants are exploited and compelled to work for little or no pay.
The average human trafficking sex trade victim may be forced to have sex up to 20 to 40 times a day. Human trafficking is a crime that can take many forms, and one that tears at our social fabric, debases our common humanity, and violates what we stand for as a country and a people.
Human Trafficking and Sex Slave Awareness month and more specifically Human trafficking Awareness Day is to dedicated to raising awareness of sexual slavery and human trafficking worldwide. It started in 2007, when the U.S. Senate designated January 11th as National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Although it is a U.S. initiative, the United Nations has begun to highlight this topic and working towards global awareness.
Marshall’s film, Daughter of the King which uses the tag line “Freedom by Grace” is a story about a young woman named Ashley Miller (Debra van Gaalen) who is trying to rebuild her life and move beyond the mistakes she has made in the past of drug addiction being convicted with trafficking of drugs. As she tries to move her life forward she still is in over her head in a large personal debt she owes and it is standing in her way. Due to her inability to pay her debt it is not long before she is pulled back into the world of drugs and finds herself addicted again. She is forced into a lifestyle of being a debt slave to the man Haydar (Florin Marksteiner) she owes money to. Ashley now must work as a prostitute and trafficking drugs to work off her debt. While under the control of Haydar, Ashley is verbally abused, degraded and humiliated, lowering her self esteem to the point she feels she is worthless and deserves all that has happened to her. Nadia (Kelsea Meredith), Ashley’s friend tries to help Ashley see her way back from the dark turn her life has taken. Throughout the production Ashley is taken on a life journey that turns her life upside down as she tries to deal with being a debt slave. All around her are girls that are in Haydar’s organization. Each with their own story of how they have ended up where they are. Many of them are not there willingly, but really having nowhere else to go. Haydar, forces Ashley to be one of his “girls” to pay off her debt. He has preyed upon women who have been thrown out on the streets, are run a ways or are running away from home. Some are drug addicts, and some are sexually abused. He takes them in and then entraps them in his web like a spider does to it’s prey. Women who are trafficked are often women from the streets with no home or money, some with drug addictions, others running from various forms of abuse. Some are women who owe money to people like Haydar and now have to work off their debt to be able to get their freedom.
During filming of Daughter of the King the cast and crew had a few times where what they were filming, dealing with prostitution and sex trafficking, very closely reflected real life around them. Early on a man stopped in the middle of a side street in his jeep to “take in the view” of cast members dressed as prostitutes on the private property we were shooting on next to the street. He even asked “what’s the price to be with your hookers and hoes”. Also while at a couple of motel’s filming director Matthew Marshall as well as a few of the cast and crew witnessed on several occasions, real prostitutes working out of rooms near where we were shooting. One in fact had three men in an hour. Marshall and a cast member observed Man #2 was just leaving and got into one cab when Man #3 was getting dropped off by another cab. The two men actually passed each other, while the prostitute waited at the door until Man #3 entered. Marshall offered these words on the issue of human trafficking “It is right in plain sight if we just open our eyes to see it”. Many people don’t feel it happens on our soil here in Canada. But the 401 is a major highway of human trafficking and cases have been reported in Windsor, London, Kitchener, Hamilton and Toronto. Toronto international airport is a major hub of people from Canada being transported out to other countries and women, men and children being transported in from other countries.
Marshall is returning to this theme with an underlining story line in his newest film Blue Love. The major story line is about a nurse named Kaitlyn Butler played by Helena Rose who co-wrote the script –with him with Marshall and will be co- producing him as well. Within the story Butler’s husband Braydon gets involved with a drug dealer and pimp to make money after he loses his job. Braydon exposure to prostitutes and porn desensitizes him to respecting and cherishing his wife and he begins to become violent to her and even sells her to the pimp at one point. Kaitlyn experiences abuse and domestic violence from him within there marriage. “If brings us back to the heart of the issue of human trafficking but presents it in a different light then we did in Daughter of the King. It becomes more personal and close to home for the main character and the person that is supposed to love her”, says Marshall.
Human trafficking and exploitation are very real issues in the world that everyone needs to pay attention to. We need to see that the true heart of human trafficking and sexual exploitation is the demand for it driven by men. It is the male population that is fuelling an industry that exploits women. The key thing about sex trafficking is supply and demand. Without the demand the supply would dry up. We as the male population is the root of this. We need to change our perspective and we need to speak up for women. Any person that has any sense of justice for the poor or justice for the marginal needs to stand up and speak out on this issue. Together we can come together to #EndSlavery