BOULDER, Colo. -
Forced child prostitution is not something most people like to think about, but for the group CU Students Against Modern-Day Slavery, it's a reality that cannot be ignored.
"Human sex trafficking is one of the hugest human-rights violations in history, and it's happening now more than ever in history,â said University of Colorado junior Mary Currier, a member of the student group. "People like our sisters and daughters are being victimized and somebody needs to stand up for them.â
Reactivated last semester, Students Against Modern-Day Slavery stands up for victims of sex trafficking, child labor and other forms of modern-day slavery, first and foremost by alerting others to the problem.
"The biggest thing for us is raising awareness of the issue,â said sophomore Ryan Flanders, the group's co-founder and director. "If we can get the movement big enough, then our government will see it as an urgent issue and be more proactive in cracking down on it.â
As part of ongoing efforts to raise awareness on campus, Students Against Modern-Day Slavery will host two events this week to illustrate the horrific scope of modern-day slavery across the globe.
The first will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday in the fountain area next to the University Memorial Center, where the group will stage a vigil next to a small bed.
"This is not a comfortable bed,â Currier said. "It's similar to the kind of bed that a 6-year-old girl in Cambodia was chained to while being forced to perform sex acts.â
Students Against Modern-Day Slavery members will be on hand at the vigil to provide information and answer questions from passersby about human sex trafficking.
They will also be inviting those interested in learning more to attend a second event titled "The CU Empathy Experienceâ from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Dennis Small Cultural Center, in UMC Room 457.
That event - co-sponsored by Boulder-based nonprofit I Empathize - will feature artifacts from the southeast Asian slave trade, such as a pair of child-sized flip-flops discovered in a Cambodian brothel.
"Through the art, media and artifacts, we hope to visually engage people to understand and try to empathize with the stories of these victims,â Flanders said. "Hopefully it will bring the issue to life in their minds and they will be touched and want to help.â
Wednesday's exhibit will be followed by a panel discussion from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in Room 199 of the Hellems Arts and Sciences building, featuring CU professors and a guest speaker from the Polaris Project, a Denver-based organization opposing sex trafficking and modern-day slavery.
"I think this should be the most important social issue today,â Flanders said.
He went on to say that 27 million people worldwide - more than twice the amount forcibly removed from Africa during the slave trade - currently are enslaved.
Flanders said he believes that number includes between 50,000 and 70,000 sex slaves victimized in the U.S. on any given day.
"It's happening in our back yard,â Flanders said, noting that cross-country interstates 25 and 70 help make the Denver-metro area a hub in the sex-trafficking industry.
"It is a global issue that no country is untouched by.â