Is your wardrobe human-trafficking free?

A new label launched in the US and Colombia this week will certify products that were made without forced labor or trafficking victims.

Many American shoppers make it a point to purchase certified organic, non-GMO, or fair trade products. And now, globally conscious consumers can add another label to the list. A new Freedom Seal will certify products that are made without forced labor or by victims of human trafficking.

The Freedom Seal was launched simultaneously in the United States and Colombia on Wednesday, marking the first ever World Day Against Human Trafficking. It will eventually be used on products sold worldwide.

“I came from a marketplace of victimization,” said Rani Hong, a trafficking survivor and CEO of the Washington-based Tronie Foundation. Ms. Hong is a native of India, and at the age of seven was sold by an uncle into the service of a man who kept her locked in a cage. When she was 8 years old, she was adopted by an American family and went to live in the United States. “Today we are creating a new marketplace to prevent that victimization,” Hong said at a conference on human trafficking in Cali, Colombia, this week.

Hong said she decided to launch the Freedom Seal initiative to help consumers put pressure on businesses.

“A lot of companies say they are doing things to fight human trafficking in their supply chains, but this seal raises the bar of accountability,” she said. “Who would have thought we’d need a label to say this product is forced labor free?” 

The Freedom Seal will certify companies that actively raise awareness of modern-day slavery, provide support for trafficking survivors, and work to eradicate modern-day slavery within their business and supply chains.

Though the magnitude of human trafficking is difficult to measure because it goes largely unreported, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that at any given time there are 2.5 million victims worldwide. Almost 80 percent of victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation.

Colombia, together with Brazil and the Dominican Republic, is one of the biggest sources of sex trafficking in Latin America. Dozens of survivors who have been trafficked to Japan, Dubai, and other countries attended the Calí-based conference this week in an effort to break the silence about the crime. Victims from the United States, Cameroon, Vietnam, and Mexico shared their stories of victimization and survival, as well.

Hong said several companies have shown an interest in the Freedom Seal certification, though said she could not reveal the names until they have gone through the seal's application process.

“The war against human trafficking may not be won tomorrow, but [the Freedom Seal] is a first step,” Hong said.

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