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Sorvino: "Shocking To Discover Sheer Scale Of Tragedy"

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Mira Sorvino tackles the international blight of sex slavery every way she can. She just wrapped Trade Of Innocents, a drama about trafficking of young girls in Cambodia. It follows her earlier, acclaimed miniseries Human Trafficking.

Offscreen, the Oscar-winning actress deals with the horrific trade in human beings in her real-life role as Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Since being named to the position in 2009, the mother of four has travelled the world, visited shelters in countries like Mexico, and had heart-breaking meetings with sex-trade survivors who’d been sold to brothels as children.

“At one time, I did not understand that slavery still existed in the world. People think, ‘Lincoln freed the slaves,’ period,” Sorvino tells Samaritanmag. “But it does exist, in the form of sex slavery and child pornography and sweatshops. It was shocking to discover the sheer scale of the tragedy. It’s not just because it so often involves children, but because it degrades and objectifies human beings, turns them into objects that can be bought and sold, into commodities.

“It’s a $32 billion business, tied with arms smuggling for the world’s second most lucrative illegal enterprise just after drugs. And yet the amount that governments spend on it is tiny compared to what’s spent to combat trafficking in drugs.”

Her eyes were opened to the issue prior to her U.N. appointment while serving as a spokesperson on women’s issues for Amnesty International. “I did the movie Human Trafficking because I’d already become deeply involved in the issue under that canopy. It was a way to marry activism and acting,” she explains.

Since the U.N. appointment, however, Sorvino has become more hands-on politically, addressing Congress and state government officials (she was a featured speaker recently at the National Conference of State Legislators).

“I’m trying to change state legislation, because the only good laws we have regarding human trafficking are federal. The state response is insufficient.”

Her father, actor Paul Sorvino is well-known. But she says it was her mother, former film worker Lorraine Davis who raised her to have a social conscience.

“My mom marched on Washington with Martin Luther King, and I grew up with the civil rights issue. I was also tremendously horrified by the story of Anne Frank, and it was a story that stayed with me for years and years and years.

"I became obsessed with the Holocaust and genocide and racial prejudice. To me, any form of slavery is the ultimate indignity, the worst thing you can do to a person, short of killing them.”

Samaritanmag.com is an online magazine covering the good deeds of individuals, charities and businesses.