[Editor’s note: This January our theme as an organization is the devaluation of women, which will include topics like abuse and human trafficking. These are often uncomfortable things to talk about but they may be the most important issues we face in terms of gender justice. They certainly have the most grave of consequences. I’ve asked my good friend Kati Brandt, who is a near-expert in all things human trafficking to write a 4-post series about the topic. We will be publishing a post every week on Monday for the month of January. This is her first post.]
“The term trafficking in persons can be misleading: it places emphasis on the transaction aspects of a crime that is more accurately described as enslavement. Exploitation of people, day after day. For years on end.”
—United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Global Report on Trafficking in Persons
You may have heard about human trafficking. It’s not a new topic but it is definitely still widely unknown and often misunderstood. But it’s really serious because human beings are being bought, sold, and coerced into slavery. And it’s happening all over the world including the United States. Yep, it happens here. So for the month of January I’ll be stopping by this blog to talk about everything from statistics and definitions to how you can help.
Human trafficking is defined in the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime as the following:
The recruitment, transportation, transfer, and harboring or receipt of persons by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.
…That’s a mouthful. When you break it down it says any human being held against their will or doing a job without appropriate pay is being trafficked. They are slaves. This can include pimp-prostitution, escort services, the porn industry, forced labor, servitude or the removal of organs. It’s a pretty broad spectrum and a little daunting to comprehend. Trafficking as a whole can be broken down into two categories: Sex trafficking and labor trafficking. We will go into more depth on both of those later this month, so stay tuned.
So, let’s talk statistics. There are many organizations both in the US and abroad that work to end trafficking and collect data along that journey. Please keep in mind, while these numbers are staggering they potentially only scratch the surface of reality. Data can only be collected if someone reports the incident. But we are talking about humans being abducted or coerced and often kept silent out of fear. It’s tough to say how many people are actually being trafficked at any given moment. But even if it’s only a glimpse, numbers let us quantify what’s actually happening and help to inform people of the reality that slavery, both domestic and international, is not dead. So, here are some stats: (found on the Polaris Project website and The Covering House website)
- The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally, including 5.5 million children. (That’s just slightly more people than the entire population of New York City.)
- 55% of victims are women and girls
- ILO estimates human trafficking to be a $150 billion industry worldwide.
- According to the United Nations, human trafficking is a $9.5 billion industry in the U.S.
- ILO estimates about 4.5 million people are trapped in forced sexual exploitation globally
- In 2013, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) received reports of 3,609 sex trafficking cases inside the United States
- The US Department of Justice estimates that 300,000 children are at risk of being prostituted in the United States.
- NHTRC estimated in 2013 that 1 in 7 endangered runaways were likely sex trafficking victims
- The average age of children being trafficked into prostitution in the US is 13-14
- 1 in 3 teens will be lured toward prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home
- A pimp can make $150,000-$200,000 per child each year and on average pimps have 4-6 girls
- The average sex trafficking victim will be forced to have sex somewhere between 20-48 times per day
- NHTRC received 929 reported cases of Labor Trafficking in 2013
- Industries that have had cases of labor trafficking include agriculture, construction, domestic work and manufacturing.
It’s a lot to take in. If you feel overwhelmed, it’s okay. If you aren’t sure how to respond, it’s okay. If you feel a little mad, that’s normal. If you feel sad, that’s normal. There’s a lot more to learn and I promise there are good things to report. Organizations that are fighting this industry and providing transitional care for people who’ve been freed, governments passing laws that are helping victims be free, and members of the general public getting informed and learning how to recognize red flags. There is absolutely hope and this is a fight that can be won. So don’t freak out yet! We have so much to talk about!
If you want learn more please visit the following websites:
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Haya Benitez.