By Jenna SimsenJEvery semester, the Intercultural and International Student Services have offered information to students and the community to educate and expose certain details of society which are generally unspoken.
Usually, a series will cover a topic for the span of a semester; however, some topics tend to be more complex than others and will cover multiple semesters with multiple speakers.
This semester, IISS chose to spotlight women in law. During the course of the spring semeser, IISS has invited three women lawyers to visit the university to speak about different but very particular topics suggested by students and faculty.
Over the semester, speakers have presented information in workshops educating others about the truths about human embryos, discrimination regarding employment and the most recent topic on human trafficking.
“We’re wanting people to understand that there are segments of society that aren’t often talked about,” said Linda Contreras Bullock, assistant dean of student diversities. “We want to expose unordinary topics.”
Bullock emphasized that the unordinary topics are intentionally chosen, so that those soft subjects are exposed to the community, and spoken of so that others are educated about what really goes on within certain societies.
The human trafficking seminar given by Diana Velardo, a topic of which is very passionate about was discussed and exposed in a workshop open to the university and community. Velardo, a clinical instructor and the crime victim’s coordinator at UH-Law Center, was the third speaker asked to give a presentation because of her vast knowledge of human trafficking and her desire to help those who are victims.
The topic discussed was officially introduced with the slogan “Have You Met a Slave Today?” As claimed, the answer was sure to surprise many. The information Velardo presented was meant to educate others the truth regarding modern-day slavery.
In short, human trafficking is the legal and illegal commerce or trade of people for use in legitimate labor as well as forced labor. This sometimes evolves into involuntary servitude or slave-like situations with no escape. Often times, women who fall victim to human trafficking find they are being forced into sexual servitude or prostitution. Victims usually cooperate with involuntary exploitation when faced with threats of violence or exploitation. Exploitation is not limited to women, as many children are also victims of human trafficking, with similar exploitations occurring. Exploitation can be defined anywhere from rape, slavery, and forced prostitution.
“What happens is, people think they are getting into a smuggling agreement.” Velardo said. “But then find themselves victims of human trafficking, victims of slave-like conditions or victims of involuntary servitude.”
Velardo says that Houston is a large arena for human trafficking. She has assisted with several cases involving the topic. She also serves as the executive director of the Artemis Justice Center, a nonprofit organization she founded to help victims of domestic violence.
It is the objective of Bullock and IISS to expose and educate students and faculty about issues going on in our area that are generally unheard of and kept under the radar. Bullock says they are always taking suggestions or feedback as to what topics should be selected and discussed every semester.
Any student with information, feedback or suggestions can contact Bullock at 281-283-2574 or visit www.uhcl.edu/intercultral.