For about 27 million people in the world today (which is more than the entire population of Australia), enslavement is an everyday reality. It is even estimated that two children are sold into slavery every minute. The covert industry of forced labor and prostitution was virtually unheard of until recent years when investigations slowly uncovered the startling facts—that human trafficking is estimated to be the second largest income-generating syndicate in the world. A multi-billion dollar “business.”
It’s been described as a deeply entrenched system that touches on most arenas, making it a complicated issue to eradicate. But with the awareness of slavery on the rise, several groups around the world have begun to take on this massive challenge. Love146, based out of New Haven, Conn., is one of these groups.
In 2002, a small group of friends, along with undercover investigators, traveled to southeast Asia to see the sex trade industry firsthand. Posing as customers in a particular brothel, the group quickly discovered the intense reality of child sex slavery. Along with actual customers, they were led to a room filled with little girls in red dresses each identified not by name, but by number. The girls were gathered around small TVs, blankly entertaining themselves in between “work.” All except one. Number 146 stared back at the customers—it was a girl who was described by Love146 co-founder and President Rob Morris as the only one to have fight still left in her. A fight that inspired the organization’s name.
The mission of Love146 is to abolish child sex slavery and exploitation through strategic prevention and sustainable aftercare—focusing on hot spots in Asia, Europe and the United States. In Europe, they launched a youth initiative through a pop culture magazine featuring articles that address issues on the vulnerability of young people toward this industry. In the Philippines, they built the “Round Home”—a safe home for rescued child sex slaves. Love146 also partners with anti-trafficking organizations working in Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, India and Sri Lanka. And stateside, their U.S. advocacy director, Kathy Maskell, has been fighting for legislation that would protect children from being prosecuted for the crime of prostitution. Love146 is working to further expand its reach with increasingly creative and well-researched initiatives.
Combating worldwide sex-slavery is a huge undertaking, but Love146 maintains that public involvement at the local level makes an impact through awareness. Attend a human trafficking awareness event. Join the Love146 Task Force. Intern at the offices. Book a speaker and host an awareness event at your school, church or in the community. Fundraise. Do something.
“As ‘flat’ as our world has become, our neighbor can pretty much be any man, woman, girl or boy,” Maskell says. “To that end, we have an opportunity to lean hard into who we believe we have been called to serve. I believe we will not be measured by how much we accomplished in our lives so much as we will be measured by how well we loved the ones placed in our midst.”
To learn more, visit Love146.org.