Human trafficking is a global issue that knows no borders. It can happen anywhere and with anyone. It is increasingly happening everywhere. The act of tricking someone from the home and their family, forcing them to perform labour, services or sexual favours for profit has been taking place for way too long.
Around 4.5 million? people around the world have been victims of forced sexual exploitation and 21 million people worldwide are victims of forced labour (Bakersfield Behavioural Healthcare Hospital, 2021). Human trafficking is the third-largest crime industry in the world and is the fastest-growing activity of trans-national criminal organisations (source).
International conventions condemn human trafficking as a violation of human rights. It not only represents a threat to international peace and security but also undermines the rule of law, is a threat to dignity and freedom and gives rise to transnational criminals and terrorists.
Human trafficking is a great threat to public safety and national security everywhere. As per the 2018 and 2019 editions of the annual Trafficking in Person Reports issued by the U.S State Department, Belarus, Iran, Russia and Turkmenistan remain among the worst countries when it comes to protection against human trafficking and forced labour (Wikipedia, 2022)
January is Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention Month. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 enshrined the United States’ commitment to combating human trafficking domestically and internationally. In 2010, the then president of America, Barak Obama proclaimed January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, a month to raise awareness about the reality of human trafficking.
Understanding the important facets of human trafficking is a primary step towards prevention of human trafficking around the world, so let us do our bit to mark the significance of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
What is human trafficking?
Human trafficking can be understood as the buying, selling and transportation of humans for exploitation for sex or forced labour. People will be persuaded to engage in forced labour or commercial sex by force, fraud or coercion. Human trafficking can encompass sex acts such as prostitution, pornography or stripping. It can also be forced marriage or the extraction of organs.
Who are more prone to be the victims of human trafficking?
There is no “one size fits all” profile for potential victims of human trafficking.
People who are trafficked can be children, teenagers and adults of all genders, refugees, asylees, migrants and seasonal workers. They can be from cities, suburbs or rural areas. However, people who are deliberately preyed upon are those who are vulnerable or the most disadvantaged. Traffickers use the vulnerabilities of people to deceive them by promising things that victims may be longing for, such as false economic opportunities or emotional support (What You Need to Know About Human Trafficking Awareness Month, 2020).
Human traffickers exploit people’s weaknesses to trick and persuade them into different forms of trafficking. So, people should think of a vulnerability or weakness that they have and should take measures to guard themselves against suspicious acts of people which don’t seem believable or are overwhelming. There are no limits on who can be trafficked, children as young as 4 to someone older are equally at the risk of being trafficked (Stapleton, 2022).
According to the human trafficking hotline, homeless and runaway youth are most at risk of being trafficked. Others who are at the highest risk of being trafficked are the vulnerable and disadvantaged population, which includes those with a disability, victims of trauma or abuse, children in foster care or the child welfare system and undocumented immigrants.
What are the effects of human trafficking?
Human trafficking affects both the mental and physical well-being of victims. They will be more prone to mental disorders like anxiety, depression, panic disorder, substance abuse, suicidal tendencies and PTSD.
Victims can also experience physical problems like malnutrition, broken bones, burns, scars, migraines and memory loss. The victims of sex trafficking are at a higher risk of contracting HIV /AIDS, other STDs and STIs. Unwanted pregnancies, reproductive complications, menstrual complications, female genital mutilation and forced abortions can be commonly seen among sex trafficking victims.
What are the signs of human trafficking?
Some signs to look out for in identifying the victims of human trafficking may include:
A person not speaking for themselves and someone else doing it for them
Visible signs of being physically or emotionally controlled
Losing access to self-identification documents
Having very few or no personal possessions
Unable to leave home or workplace at will
Mark of bruises, broken bones, burns or scars
Weak sense of self, feeling helpful, shameful, guilty or humiliated
Being isolated from friends and family
Signs of emotional numbness and detachment
What are the situations that put people at risk for human trafficking?
History of domestic or other violence
Unstable living conditions
Family or a caregiver with substance abuse issues
Active drug or alcohol addiction
What are the popular myths on human trafficking?
Human trafficking is not always a violent physical crime. It has a huge psychological component to it where victims are manipulated or threatened into sexual or labour trafficking.
Traffickers don’t always target unknown people. Most of the victims are trafficked by a romantic partner, parent, spouse or a family member.
Traffickers don’t always target women or young girls. Half of sex trafficking victims and survivors are male.
How do people get entrapped in Human Trafficking?
People who get entrapped in Human Trafficking are usually vulnerable people who are trying to fight poverty or discrimination to improve their lives and support their families for a better life. Vulnerable people are often pushed to take risks beyond belief with the false hope of getting rid of poverty or discrimination. This makes them accept perilous job contracts and make unsafe migration decisions until they are trapped in a situation where the work does not exist and the living conditions are terrible. Yet they are trapped and controlled by the traffickers who take away their documents and keep them in a perpetual debt that they will never be able to pay off.
How can we do our little bit in stopping Human Trafficking?
Know and be aware of people in authority and organisations who offer support to human trafficking Issues.
Write or call concerned people or organisations to extend your support to combat human trafficking.
If you suspect any signs of human trafficking around you, contact the local police.
Support and volunteer for events that work on educating and raising awareness about human trafficking in the community, school and neighbourhood.
Educate and empower children and members of your family to stay safe and away from unsafe and suspicious people or environment.
The Bottom Line
Human trafficking is a real global issue that needs to be addressed earnestly as it often goes unnoticed because of its clandestine nature. Since human trafficking disproportionately affects women and girls, LGBTQI individuals, vulnerable migrants, ethnic minority and marginalised communities, people with disability and other underrepresented communities, the mission to combat human trafficking should be aimed at working for upholding equity and justice in our society.
Historic oppression, discrimination and other social factors and inequalities give rise to vulnerable communities. Traffickers recognise and take advantage of such vulnerabilities for their commercial and selfish benefits.
January which is the month of National Human Trafficking Prevention, so let it be the time to understand the signs of human trafficking and to raise awareness on it. Let us be aware and cautious throughout the year to be committed to protecting and empowering the victims and survivors of human trafficking. Let us work to uphold the dignity and freedom of all individuals and thus progress towards ending Human Trafficking around the world.
Anti-Slavery. (n.d.). What is Human Trafficking? Anti-Slavery. https://www.antislavery.org/slavery-today/human-trafficking/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIr_e66ayd9QIVlO3tCh3RxAjlEAMYAyAAEgLsgPD_BwE
E, J. (2021, January 10). Human Trafficking Awareness Month:: Know the Facts and Get Involved. Houston Moms Blog. Retrieved January 20, 2022, from https://houston.momcollective.com/human-trafficking-awareness-month-know-the-facts-and-get-involved/
Milller, K. (2020, January 7). What You Need to Know About Human Trafficking Awareness Month. | National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC). Retrieved January 20, 2022, from https://www.nsvrc.org/blogs/what-you-need-know-about-human-trafficking-awareness-month
National Day Calendar. (n.d.). NATIONAL HUMAN TRAFFICKING AWARENESS DAY - January 11. National Day Calendar. Retrieved January 27, 2022, from https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-human-trafficking-awareness-day-january-11/
National Human Trafficking Prevention Month - United States Department of State. (n.d.). State Department. Retrieved January 20, 2022, from https://www.state.gov/national-human-trafficking-prevention-month/
Recognizing Human Trafficking Awareness Month. (2020, January 17). Bon Secours Blog. Retrieved January 27, 2022, from https://blog.bonsecours.com/news/human-trafficking-awareness-month/
Bakersfield Behavioural Healthcare Hospital. (2021, January 12). Human Trafficking and Slavery Prevention Month. Retrieved from Bakersfieldbehavioural: https://www.bakersfieldbehavioral.com/node/2688
Wikipedia. (2022, January 18). Human Trafficking. Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_trafficking
Stapleton, L. (2022, January 5). January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
WSAW. Retrieved January 20, 2022, from https://www.wsaw.com/2022/01/06/january-is-national-slavery-human-trafficking-prevention-month