Slavery occurs in higher numbers today than at any point in history. Why?
- The cost to purchase a human being is shockingly low
- The dark internet easily supports the sale of people
- The global market allows atrocities to be perpetrated in one part of the world, while the economic benefits from that labor are garnered in another
- The obscene profit that is to be made off the labor of others keeps the market for humans high
- The unequal distribution of wealth
- The marginalization of minorities, women, and children
- The lack of recognition of the importance of women in society
The face of modern-day slavery takes many forms: sex trafficking (including child sex trafficking), forced labor, bonded labor, domestic servitude, forced child labor, forced marriage, child soldiers and the exploitation of migrant workers. Some form of slavery occurs in every country in the world and at shockingly high rates. The non-profit anti-slavery estimates that 21 million people are in forced labor, which they define as “the severe exploitation of people for personal gain. Victims are deceived or coerced into a situation they cannot leave.”
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) gathered data from 155 countries to shed light on the issue. It covers patterns and steps taken to combat trafficking, as well as reporting on victims and prosecutions. Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa warns that the situation is difficult because so many governments are in denial that it happens, and do not keep records or assist in prosecutions.
Worldwide, the efforts of small organizations working on shoestring budgets pale in comparison to the efforts of those perpetrating crimes estimated to generate 150 billion a year. There is too much money made and prosecutions are too few to deter would-be traffickers. Thailand is a good example: despite the fact that many small groups work tirelessly at rescue, rehabilitation and prevention as well as prosecution, the UNODC and the Thailand Institute of Justice released a report in August stating that “the sex industry in Thailand has continued to grow.”
One of the biggest deterrents to human trafficking is education and greater economic equality. That is a long road and one many are fighting to make happen. Meanwhile, many countries are banding together to address the issue of human trafficking and to create a systematic global response to raise the global awareness level about the human atrocity of modern-day slavery. This was made clear at the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons in September where UN General António Guterres urged the world to make this a priority for international cooperation. This urgency began back in 2010 and continues today.
Susan Coppedge, Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, wrote in her 2017 letter of address, that the theme is “increasing criminal accountability of human traffickers, and addressing challenges in prosecution – an essential component of the 3P paradigm of prosecution, protection, and prevention.” She went on to state that “a victim-centered and trauma-informed approach requires, first and foremost, that the criminal justice system not penalize victims of human trafficking when they are forced to commit crimes as a direct result of their exploitation.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson noted that human trafficking “splinters families, distorts global markets, undermines the rule of law, and spurs other transnational criminal activity. It threatens public safety and national security. But worst of all, the crime robs human beings of their freedom and their dignity. That’s why we must pursue an end to the scourge of human trafficking.”
Many people think this issue occurs mainly in underdeveloped nations – unfortunately, that is wrong. In 2016 in the U.S., there were 8,000 cases opened of people who reached out to the ToBeFree hotline, a 35% increase over the year before. Seattle-based organization Stolen Youth estimates there are over 500 trafficked kids on Seattle streets alone, and the median age of these children is just 13 years old.
Improvements are happening in the area of recognition and rescue, and high-level protocols have been drafted, signed and in some cases implemented. The United Nations Protocol Against Trafficking in Persons’ most recent report shows that in the past few years the number of Member States seriously implementing the Protocol has more than doubled. We need all countries to sign and implement the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking In Persons, Especially Women and Children. The following countries still have not signed: Bhutan, Brunei, Comoros, Republic of Congo, Fiji, Iran, Japan, Korea (DPRK), Marshall Islands, Nepal, Pakistan, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Sudan, Tonga, Uganda, Yemen, Bangladesh.
We have come a long way from totally ignoring the problem to addressing it at all levels; from the smallest locally-organized groups to the UN, but we have so far to go. It’s troubling to think there are people in the world who could support slavery of any kind, but they are out there. Do what you can to support the thousands of organizations, small and large, fighting this scourge on the planet. If you wish to donate to NGOs working in Thailand, India and Nepal which Crooked Trails partners with, click here or contact us.
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