“The trade in human beings, a modern form of slavery, … violates the God-given dignity of so many of our brothers and sisters and constitutes a true crime against humanity.”
You may not see the problem, but it’s there. The US State Department estimates there are 24.9 million human trafficking victims worldwide. This is not something that occurs only in dark alleys in the far corners of the Earth, though. It’s happening around the world every day.
Human trafficking is considered modern-day slavery, and there are more slaves today than at any time in history.
“They are hidden from view. You don’t recognize them in the back kitchens, shops, gas stations and in hospitality. They are also tucked away in fields. They don’t come out and ask for help. It’s a different kind of slavery than long ago,” says Dr. Lucy Steinitz, Catholic Relief Services senior technical advisor for protection. “They are not in shackles or on plantations. People are coerced into harsh employment under horrible conditions, and then have no freedom to leave. They are beaten, violated and told they are worthless—that no one else wants them anymore.”
Here are 7 facts about human trafficking you may not know.
The real definition of human trafficking.
Human trafficking is the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud or coercion. It’s important to note, though, that human trafficking can include, but does not require, movement. You can be a victim of human trafficking in your hometown. At the heart of human trafficking is the traffickers’ goal of exploitation and enslavement.
Types of human trafficking.
Sexual exploitation and forced labor are the most commonly identified forms of human trafficking. More than half of the victims are female. Many other forms of exploitation are often thought to be under-reported. These include domestic servitude and forced marriage; organ removal; and the exploitation of children in begging, the sex trade and warfare.
Causes of human trafficking: It’s complicated.
The causes of human trafficking are complex and interlinked, and include economic, social and political factors. Poverty alone does not necessarily create vulnerability to trafficking, but when combined with other factors, these can lead to a higher risk for being trafficked. Some of those other factors include: corruption, civil unrest, a weak government, lack of access to education or jobs, family disruption or dysfunction, lack of human rights, or economic disruptions.
It’s a lucrative industry.
Along with illegal arms and drug trafficking, human trafficking is one of the largest international crime industries in the world. A report from the International Labor Organization (ILO) says forced labor generates $150 billion in illegal profits per year. Two-thirds of that money came from commercial sexual exploitation, while the rest is from forced economic exploitation, including domestic work, agriculture, child labor and related activities.
Believe it. Human trafficking is everywhere.
Every continent in the world has been involved in human trafficking. In the United States, it is most prevalent in Texas, Florida, New York and California. Human trafficking is both a domestic and global crime, with victims trafficked within their own country, to neighboring countries and between continents. Victims of trafficking can be of any age and any gender. Women and children are often used for sexual exploitation, while men are more likely to be used for forced labor. Globally, about one in five victims of human trafficking are children. Children are also exploited for the purposes of forced begging, child pornography or child labor. Their smaller hands may also be used in tasks like sewing or untangling fishing wire.
We need to do more for migrants.
All over the world, people are on the move. Many have been forced to become migrants because of conflict, a changing climate and economic instability. Some of these migrants are vulnerable to human trafficking. A United Nations rights expert is warning a new approach is needed. “Trafficking in people in conflict situations is not a mere possibility but something that happens on a regular basis,” said Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, the United Nation’s special rapporteur on human trafficking, in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly. “This means anti-trafficking measures must be integrated into all humanitarian action and all policies regarding people fleeing conflict.”
How to stop human trafficking: The three P’s, plus a little more
The U.S. government is at the forefront of efforts to address human trafficking. Its policy surrounds the three P’s: prevent trafficking, protect victims and prosecute traffickers. The number of convictions for human trafficking is increasing, but unfortunately not proportionately to the growing awareness and extent of the problem. There are several reasons for that. There is an absence of anti-trafficking legislation in some countries. Sometimes the legislation exists, but law enforcement officials and prosecutors may not know how to use it. In some instances, victims may not cooperate with the criminal justice system because they have been threatened by a trafficker.