Time to stop
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Date: August, 2006
Daniel Bedingfield has become spokesman for Stop the Traffik: a coalition of charities united to fight human trafficking. He spoke to Surefish about his passion for the cause
How did you get involved with Stop the Traffik?
It started with a conversation I had with Steve Chalke [from Oasis]. People tend to listen to you a little more once you’ve sold a few records, and Steve was wondering what I’d like to say, now that I did have a chance to say something.
I’d been in Mumbai with the International Justice Mission, who rescue people who’ve been trafficked; Steve knew the statistics of human trafficking. About 12 million girls were trafficked in the last year – and that’s just a conservative estimate.
When the Nazis rose to power, there were some people who stood up to them. They got killed, but they made a stand regardless. If a Nazi party was to rise up in Britain, I would be saying something.
There’s something as shocking as the Holocaust happening right now with human trafficking. It’s the third largest illegal trade after illegal drugs and weapons. If everyone knew this was happening, we would demand that our Government made a difference.
They can impose severe legislation; they can say to India ‘If you don’t want to be a Third Tier country, you have to clamp down on trafficking.’ There are all sorts of other things that can be done. But this is the beginning.
This is going to be a consuming passion for me over the next ten years. I plan to dedicate a huge amount of my life to this, whether it’s through Stop the Traffik or not. This is something I’m very seething about.
And it’s amazing to be a human being in a country in the West where your vote actually does count. I know that a lot of people don’t vote. But with an issue like this, if they’re made aware that their vote can do something specifically, I think a lot of people would take that power that they’ve been given.
Is the campaign looking solely at the effects of trafficking abroad, or is it going to look at human trafficking in the UK as well?
That will come out of the dossiers we’re going to have on each country. There are so many issues in Britain related to trafficking that need to be addressed. A friend of mine who works in Immigration has just had to send a bunch of girls home, because that’s what our law is: we send them right back to the danger they’re fleeing from.
They probably get sent back in right away, back into slavery. And that happens all the time; they get sent back, because where else are you going to send them? There are so many different ways in which we need to address this issue here in Britain – and in America too.
Does it worry you that you could get so far with this, but then our governments could fail to follow through on any promises they make?
Absolutely. But we have to begin somewhere. If people don’t know that this is an issue, that has to be addressed first, and then the politicians have to know. Then you as a country begin to work towards reform.
A lot of the men who worked to reform British society, such as Wilberforce, took a long time doing so. It takes a lot of time, but it starts with knowing that there’s a problem and beginning to incline your mind to it.
So the restrictions of how governments can and will change things is down to government. We just have to let them know that it’s got to be done. And better men and women than I are thinking about this, and are working on how to sort this out.
So what practical things will you be doing as part of this campaign?
A lot of interviews like this, raising awareness via the media. Also, there’s going to be a big concert next year, to which we’re going to get as many people as we can together to do. There’ll be one in London and one in New York – in Times Square.
There are a number of other places around the world that are showing an interest in doing something at the same time. Freedom Day is 25 March 2007; whether the concerts will take place then or during the summer, I’m not quite sure. But Freedom Day is going to be a major focal point.
What we want to happen on Freedom Day is to get all the local schools, churches, mosques, etc to do something; get as many cards signed as they can; make a big deal in their neighbourhood; get as many people as they can and make it a big issue.
It’s really not going to work if it’s just a bunch of famous celebrities going ‘I’m gonna save the world because you listen to me, and by listening to me you vicariously can.’ It’s got to be a groundswell of people. This is a people’s issue. It’s people’s daughters and mothers that this is happening to right now.
Do you ever worry that this passion of yours could hamper your musical creativity?
No – I think that that passion and music are so incredibly intertwined, if I didn’t do something like this, we’d never have any good songs from me ever again!
And your fans – do you ever worry that they might not appreciate you going in this direction?
If my fans would get angry with me for getting involved in social justice and ploughing my life into something, when they’ve analysed all my lyrics and they know something of who I am, and they would judge me for spending time helping people who are being raped and abused, then I’d probably be quite happy for them to do something else.
I don’t think that anyone I’ve ever had in my concerts, or anyone who’s ever talked to me and likes my music would ever have a negative reaction against me involving my life in this.
Daniel Bedingfield was talking to George Luke