Photo by Kay Chernush, courtesy of the State Department
The image in this photo is not what it may seem at first. The men and women aren't just freely socializing on a warm night. The women are human slaves, and the men are about to buy them.
Slavery is a business and it is as old as time. But as we all know, that doesn't make it right. Everyone is born with the right to be free.
This isn't just a moral issue. While criminals make a good living by committing the worst kind of violence against other people - both female and male - the rest of us pay dearly. Human trafficking helps organized criminals to grow in strength and number, putting all of us at risk because the rule of law means nothing to them.
In addition, if we tolerate a two-tier world where some people have rights and others don't, we are enabling a culture where it's OK to abuse other people - especially if you think you've paid for the privilege.
You have the skills to sell just about anything. And many people are trying to help these victims, both female and male, escape the chains of their captors. But it isn't enough as long as even one person remains enslaved.
Make a difference in this world.
Help these people, who have no voice and no money.
Help these people, taken at the youngest age and sold to the highest bidder.
If we put our resources together, we can destroy the world's third most profitable industry - one that generates $7-10 billion every year for the traffickers.
We have the power to make people aware so that they don't fall into the hands of traffickers in the first place.
More powerfully, we can help make the crime itself so visible, so abhorrent, and so intolerable that demand itself dries up.
I became aware of this issue through my employer, the Department of Homeland Security, which has joined the struggle through its Blue Campaign. I feel so strongly about it that I am doing what I can to help on a personal level - this blog is not sponsored or affiliated with the campaign but I hope that you will support it.
My goal is help further raise awareness independently, primarily through this blog, so that I can reach as many people as possible and urge them to help free the slaves.
Do what you can. Every little bit makes a difference.