Dr Mellissa Withers, Associate Professor at the Institute for Global Health at University of Southern California and Director of the APRU Global Health Program, was invited to deliver a lunch-time lecture on ‘Myths about Human Trafficking’ on 21 March 2018. Asian Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) is a network of 50 leading research universities in the region and CUHK has recently joined as a member.
At the beginning of the seminar, Dr Withers provided an overview of the APRU Global Health Program and explained the opportunities for students to engage in global health activities within the network. This was followed by her current research in women’s health and gender-based violence, focusing on human trafficking. Based on her expertise and experience in working with human trafficking survivors, she explained that, regardless of gender, over 20 million people around the world have been exposed to some forms of exploitation and deception in many human trafficking activities, such as in sex industry, fishing industry, and organ transplant. Human trafficking is the second largest criminal industry in the world and the victims are not well protected largely due to unclear nature of human trafficking and many common myths associated with it. She concluded that there were many things to be done in healthcare settings to protect victims and to prevent further cases. For example, raising understanding of the definition and symptoms of human trafficking may enable health professionals to alert the police. Furthermore, providing resources and education to at-risk youth and increasing their self-esteem may help them to resist and fight against human traffickers.
Overall, the seminar was eye-opening and stimulating for all the participants and provided an invaluable opportunity to learn more about the APRU and the phenomenon of human trafficking.