School of Law hosts human trafficking conference

On Friday, the UM Law School hosted the Hispanic National Bar Association’s Second Annual Human Trafficking Conference. 

Human trafficking is the second largest and fastest growing crime in the world. The United Nations totals the value of human trafficking at $32 billion a year. Human trafficking is considered a form of modern day slavery whereby victims as young as 12 and 13 years old are forced into sexual exploitation.

Catherine Mackinnon, a renowned lawyer, teacher and activist on sex-equality issues, delivered the keynote address at the conference. She is responsible for pioneering the legal claim for sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination and also served as a catalyst for recognizing pornography as a civil rights violation.

During the conference, a panel discussion explained the importance of bringing awareness to the issue of sex trafficking and the prevalence of the crime that is happening in our own backyard. Florida is among the top three states with a major sex trafficking issue, surpassing California and New York.

“We definitely have a sex trafficking problem in South Florida; we have seen seven to eight cases a year of mostly sex trafficking cases. It is unfortunate, but it does exist and there are minors and adults who are being trafficked here in South Florida,” said panelist Barbara Martinez, who is an assistant United States attorney, chief of special prosecutions unit and adjunct professor at UM.

Students on campus who attended were educated on the causes and effects that human trafficking has on the community and what can be done as a means to combat the vicious crime. Rina Urias is a first-year law student at UM and she was surprised the crime existed in Miami.

“So far what I have seen about human trafficking is appalling. I don’t understand how something like this can happen; it seems like we have such a civilized society and yet sex tapes of little children are going around and being sold for money,” Urinas said.

David Birda, freshman political science and Spanish major, said he is now motivated to assist with combating against human trafficking.

“I’m partly shocked that this actually happened, but I’m also encouraged to do something about this and I am hopeful that that there are resources and people to help end this,” he said. “Events such as these gives me hope.”