What I witnessed was probably trafficking

RealStar’s volunteer Elin Weiss writes about her experience of seeing trafficking and what you can do about it. 

Before and during the summer I have seen a number of articles discussing and describing trafficking, sex trade and child marriage. I have read pieces concerning the difficulties of controlling and stopping child marriage, about people dying while being trafficked or traded and also about a brave flight attendant who noticed a young girl being trafficked and who stopped it from happening further. I have also seen, through campaigns such as RealStars “Travel For Fair Sex”, how people are encouraged to speak up when or if they suspect trafficking or other illegal activities.

I have seen the bumper stickers that RealStars have produced for taxis in the Gothenburg area and I’m glad when I see their different campaigns in my inbox. At the same thing I am aware of how close many people are to different types of human trafficking, as witnesses, especially while we travel.

The last of the articles I mentioned above got me thinking about something that happened while I traveled, around 13 years ago. I was 18 and was sitting on a flight leaving San Francisco for a touchdown in a European country before heading back to Landvetter airport. I was on the flight together with my sister and we both reacted to a man, probably in his early forties, who travelled together with a young girl, approximately around 13 or 14.

The man and the girl sat next to each other and two rows ahead was a woman who boarded the flight with them. At the time I assumed that the woman was the girl’s mother but later in life, thinking back, I’m not so sure. I believed the man to be European and the girl and the woman to be Asian. This was a crude assumption based solely on appearance. The girl and the man did not appear to be related or know each other very well but it was obvious that they travelled together.

As an 18 year old I reacted with disgust because I understood that the man was supposed to be with the girl, probably as her husband and I could not understand how the mother could encourage or allow that to happen. The girl was obviously young as she carried with her a stuffed animal and spent a lot of time write a journal. The man mostly read books and newspapers. He did not treat the girl badly but he was a little too close and a little too intimate with her for him to be a family friend or a relative.

I still remember it vividly and I have often wondered what went on and what happened to the girl. Now that I am older and more educated I understand that what I witnessed was probably trafficking or some form of arranged child marriage and I wonder if other people too reacted and why no one acted. That’s why organizations like RealStars are so important, we need to know about trafficking and its various forms.

Thanks to organizations such as RealStars I would know what to do if I witnessed something similar today. I would not doubt what I saw or talk myself out of reacting to it, thinking I was simply imagining something. Instead I would contact the on board staff so that more people could assess the situation. I would not assume that the woman travelling together with the man and the girl was the girl’s mother. I would neither assume that what happened was culturally bound or simply feel disgusted and keep it to myself. Campaigns where people are encouraged to speak out concerning what they see when they for example travel, could save a person’s life and stop trafficking.