Thank you for taking the time to Join Equity For Children’s staff in observance of National Human Trafficking Awareness Day on January 11th. January is, by Presidential proclamation, designated as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention month. This an opportunity to reflect specifically on what must be done to raise awareness and work towards eradicating human trafficking, a major rights violation that robs those affected of their freedom, health, safety, and much more. This issue, which concerns the forced or coerced exploitation of humans for labor, services, or sex, affects individuals worldwide across boundaries, of age, race, gender, and economic status. The broad reach of human trafficking makes it an issue concerning all, and our political, academic, and civil communities must work together to end this and all forms of rights violations for our fellow humans.
Human trafficking is an issue that goes back to the fourteen century, when the British joined the European slave trading in Africa. Even though several centuries have passed, more than forty-five million people are slaves today, including 5.5 million children. According to Article 3 of the U.N. Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, the trafficking of children is a form of human trafficking defined as the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, and/or receipt” of a child for slavery, forced labor, and exploitation. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes 2016 Report on Trafficking in Persons, 54 percent of all trafficking victims in 2014 were trafficked for sexual exploitation, making this form of trafficking the primary driver for modern-slavery.
Many children subjected to human trafficking are forced to commit commercial sex acts, forced into a system of domestic servitude, or employed in occupations that are mentally, physically, socially, and morally harmful. They may be forced to work in sweatshops, on construction sites, or in houses as domestic servants; on the streets as child beggars; in wars as child soldiers; on farms, in traveling sales crews, or in restaurants and hotels. Some are forced to work in brothels and strip clubs or for escort and massage services.
Nowadays, increasing demand for child pornography and the rise of sex tourism have influenced the growing prevalence of child sex slavery and trafficking throughout the years. Children and adolescents have become the main target of traffickers, as they have “insecurities and vulnerabilities” which allow traffickers to manipulate and dominate. The sex trafficking industry profits an estimated $99 billion each year. End Slavery Now, a national non-profit organization, explains that trafficked children for sex purposes regularly see from 25 to 48 costumes per day, working 12 hours a day every day of the week.
The Department of Defense has reported trafficking of children and women as the world’s fastest growing crime. Polaris, a nonprofit working to combat modern-day slavery and human trafficking, recorded a 13 percent jump in identified cases of human trafficking from 2016 to 2017. Globally, over seventy percent of human trafficking victims are women and girls.
Human Trafficking has become a global issue, as every single country in the world has victims. For instance, the United States is a source and transit country, and is also considered one of the top destination points for victims of child trafficking and exploitation. Cases of human trafficking have been reported in all 50 U.S. States. However, despite the high number of estimated victims and cases worldwide, prosecution rates in cases of human trafficking appear low. According to the State Department’s 2017 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, there were globally only 14,894 trafficking prosecutions and 9,071 convictions in 2016.
Addressing this issue is of particular importance to our work at Equity for Children because, as with many rights violations and the vulnerable situations they create for those affected, children are at increased risk of exploitation, particularly those already living in precarious or unprotected situations. Children lack the experience and resources to defend themselves from violence and to know, protect, and advocate for their rights. Children affected by poverty or living invisibly, beyond the reach of documentation or statistical representation, are often left unaided through policy because they are unrepresented in data. Our work, in collaboration with our partners, seeks to find methods of ensuring that the most vulnerable are taken into account through policy and projects by increasing their representation in the data that is analyzed to determine concrete approaches and actions. This work also seeks to improve the ability to identify and aid those who are vulnerable and living precariously, and those at risk of or already affected by any forms of exploitation, including within the context of human trafficking.
Since 2007, January 11 has been National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in the United States. It is necessary for people get involved in and gain awareness of human trafficking, as it is an issue recorded every single day in every country of the world. It is the 21st century, and we expect a world without slaves. We are called to observe and speak out if we suspect or notice any human trafficking around us, and we must familiarize ourselves with the signs and with what we can do to help end this issue.
The most crucial component of achieving sustainable development is ensuring that no one is left behind, and to do that we must ensure that all are accounted for and protected from exploitation and the grave risk to health and safety that accompanies it. Countless individuals affected by human trafficking are unaccounted for, and we thank the many organizations and individuals working tirelessly to identify and aid victims of this heinous rights violation. We will continue our tireless work through research and collaboration as well to find, represent, and aid the vulnerable children and adolescents for whom human trafficking poses not only threat to freedom, health, and safety, but also to their inclusion in policy consideration and in the sustainable future we are attempting to build.