Creating Awareness to Push Engagement: Human Trafficking Awareness Month
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. I have been posting stats on social media this month. But though it would be suiting to close the month with an overview of human trafficking from the latest report—the 2016 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons from the United Nations (just a quick 126 page read).
I think most people know that human trafficking is bad at this point. But it is also a very complicated issue and we can’t begin to end it without first starting out with awareness of its complexity, where and how it is happening and current drivers. There are many drivers for exploitation which means to end trafficking and exploitation will take more than just pulling people out of prostitution, or forced labor. Whole systems need to change.
We need to create laws that punish offenders. We need to get rid of demand. We need to change how we spend money. We need to rethink refugees, migration and conflict zones, land rights, poverty…and more! Hear me, we need to pull people out. But if that is all we are doing the problem won’t go away.
That is why I am so passionate about PREVENTION. It might be complicated, but let’s work to prevent these horrible things from happening in the first place. In in the process we can also prevent and solve other global problems that are inextricably linked with trafficking.
Eugene Cho, pastor and activist was in Thailand working with an anti-trafficking organization and said,
“To reduce it [trafficking] to simple terms, or simple problems, or simple solutions…cause harmful consequences. While we can all agree that it is sinful, egregious, evil, and wrong…there are many nuances and complexities. It would serve all of us to grow deep in the awareness not just of the larger issue but the nuances and complexities.”
So, let’s become aware. Let’s dig in before we go out to the hard work of engaging the issue at hand. The topic of Sex Trafficking has become popular or trendy if you will as a justice issue. But this is just one aspect of Trafficking. Did you know there are 7 ways people are trafficked and exploited?
- Child soldiers
- Forced Begging
- Sexual Exploitation
- Forced Marriage
- Selling Children
- Removal of Organs
- Forced Labor
There are 45.8 million people enslaved today, according to the Global Slavery Index. Trafficking for sexual exploitation and forced labor are the most prominently detected forms. But over the last 10 years, the profile of detected trafficking victims has changed. Although most detected victims are still women, children and men now make up larger shares of the total number of victims than they did a decade ago. In 2014, children comprised 28 per cent of detected victims, and men, 21 per cent (UNODC, 2016).
The report and its focus is also timely based on current events:
Perhaps the most worrying development is that the movement of refugees and migrants, the largest seen since World War II, has arguably intensified since 2014. As this crisis has unfolded, and climbed up the global agenda, there has been a corresponding recognition that, within these massive migratory movements, are vulnerable children, women and men who can be easily exploited by smugglers and traffickers (UNODC, 2016)
Refugees and those in conflict areas are especially susceptible to trafficking and exploitation as they are seeking safety and a better life.
We live in a global world and how we treat those migrating, seeking asylum and looking for a better life shows what we value (our own “safety” over others). We can prevent exploitation by how we treat migrants and refugees. By making them “illegal” or in the shadows we disproportionately increase their risk for exploitation.
But it isn’t just those coming to America, or in another country. Trafficking happens right here in America too. And it goes beyond sexual exploitation. Domestic trafficking has increased in the last few years. Roughly 42 percent of detected victims between 2012-2014 were trafficked domestically. The UNODC report key findings for North America included:
- Most frequently detected victim profile: Women, 60%
- Most frequently detected form of exploitation: Sexual exploitation, 55%, Forced Labor 39% and Other, 6%
- Gender profile of convicted offenders: 61% male
- Summary profile of trafficking flow: Mostly local trafficking, but also a significant destination for long distance flows.
- Emerging trend: Many women and girls trafficked for forced labor.
The UNODC report also discussed the traffickers themselves. Victims and traffickers often come from the same place, speak the same language etc. This helps them earn trust. Family ties can also be abused. An example being family members entrusted with caring for a family member and instead profiting from the family members exploitation.
But this report is not all bad news! First, the world adopted the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda that includes goals and targets for trafficking (specifically against women and children). Second, the development of the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants and the New York Declaration had three countries dedicate to concrete action against crimes of trafficking and migrant smuggling. Third, countries with statutes that criminalize trafficking crimes increased from 33 in 2008 to 158 in 2013!
There is SO much information in this report, and I know not everyone will be as excited as me to read it. But, if you are interested in ALL the stats like me, download the report now.
Let’s take our knowledge out and engage our neighborhoods, the vulnerable and systems of power and exploitation.