Modern-day slavery: the global human trafficking epidemic

Modern-day slavery answers the question “exactly how much money is a person worth?” The answer is simple: the average cost of a slave around the world is $90.

Not just in other parts of the world, but modern-day slavery is a reality here in America. The epidemic of human trafficking is overwhelming. Of course, human trafficking in all its entirety can’t be summed up in a hundred pages, let alone a few paragraphs. However, one doesn’t need to be an expert on the topic to make a real and meaningful difference.

A brief history

On Jan. 4, 2010, a proclamation was issued by President Obama that established January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. This proclamation was preceded by the Senate’s decision to designate Jan. 11 as Human Trafficking Awareness Day, back in 2007.

“It is slavery in the modern age. Every year thousands of people, mainly women and children, are exploited by criminals who use them for forced labor or the sex trade. No country is immune. Almost all play a part, either as a source of trafficked people, transit point or destination.” United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon

What is human trafficking?

For many countries, human trafficking is swept under the rug. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, many countries simply do not have the resources or feel the pressing need to help put an end to trafficking. A plethora of different factors could be the reason for this terrible complacency. In 2008, a report on human trafficking headed by the U.S. State Department found that many countries such as Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar only make halfhearted efforts to initiate consequences for traffickers and organized support for victims.

Furthermore, in accordance with UNICEF, it’s estimated that 2 million children will be sex trafficking victims each year (20% of traffic victims are children), and the average age of a girl being sold into sex trafficking stands at 13.

“Children’s nimble fingers are exploited to untangle fishing nets, sew luxury goods or pick cocoa. Their innocence is abused for begging or exploited for sex as prostitutes, pedophilia or child pornography. Others are sold as child brides or camel jockeys.” Antonio Maria Costa, head of U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime

The term “human trafficking” implies a great many things. Nonetheless, a report from the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime states that the two most well-known manifestations of human trafficking are sexual exploitation and forced labor.

The more common of the two is sexual exploitation, which according to the “Global Report on Trafficking in Persons,” makes up 79 percent of human trafficking. In most cases, the victims are women and young girls. Once these women are victimized it’s hard to emerge out the other side. Victims are driven to do whatever it takes to regain some control of their lives, and that’s only if they’ve managed to maintain their will to survive after what’s been done to them. In some cases, victims will become traffickers themselves. In Central Asia and Eastern Europe, more than 60 percent of those who are convicted of trafficking are women. So not only are women being taken and victimized, in some cases, they’re being transformed into something they would’ve never become on their own: a cog in the machine of human trafficking.

Forced labor is the second most common form of human trafficking, making up 18 percent of the total (this is from the data that’s been made available, it’s possible that some incidents remain unknown and unreported).

“How many hundreds of thousands of victims are slaving away in sweatshops, fields, mines, factories, or trapped in domestic servitude? Their numbers will surely swell as the economic crisis deepens the pool of potential victims and increases demand for cheap goods and services.” Antonio Maria Costa, head of U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime

It goes without saying that there will be psychological, physical, and emotional trauma that’ll undoubtedly take a lifetime to recover. This dehumanization of innocent people goes beyond the surface. As a result, victims are vulnerable to any number of mental disorders, feelings of humiliation or guilt, as well as feelings of utter powerlessness. While individuals are being robbed of their basic human rights, it stands as our duty to be more than mere bystanders.

How to get involved

Although it’s just a start, raising public awareness can be the catalyst as well as supporting any of the different organizations working to help prevent human trafficking. Here are some ways you can get involved:

  • Share your thoughts on social media using the hashtag #HumanTraffickingAwarnessDay.
  • The more informed younger children are, the better. Make sure they know how to interact with strangers, their address, and important phone numbers.
  • Have the number for the National Human Trafficking Resources Hotline 888-373-7888 on your phone.
  • Become more knowledgeable regarding the indicators of human trafficking so if you notice something out of place, you can report it.
  • Lastly, the International Justice Mission is a global organization that rescues and supports victims, holds traffickers accountable in court, and focuses heavily on strengthening the local justice system in order to prevent the crimes before they happen.

Together, we can become a more well informed and unified voice that’ll be heard ringing out against the noise of human trafficking. It’s a long road ahead, but by prioritizing public consciousness, supporting victims, and being proactive, the fight against this injustice will undoubtedly see real progress.

Chloe Kasper is a Staff Writer for The Daily Runner.