The United Nations defines human trafficking (or trafficking in persons) through two main criteria: (1) transporting or being involved in the transportation of persons through coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, or abuse of power, and (2) doing so for the purpose of exploitation. The most widely recognized forms of human trafficking are sex trafficking (trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation) and labor trafficking (trafficking in persons for exploitation of their physical labor, such as in an agricultural or domestic setting). Other forms of trafficking include forced begging, organ removal, and mail-order brides. Due to media coverage of mainly sex trafficking, many people consider human trafficking to be synonymous with sex trafficking, but this is a dangerous misconception which leaves many trafficking victims invisible.
Human trafficking is linked to many other global phenomena, including transnational crime, poverty, slavery, and human rights. It is also sometimes linked to issues of migration or prostitution, but these links are more controversial. The increase in global communication, especially via the internet, has given modern-day traffickers easy access to a wider audience through misleading websites and advertisements. Traffickers play on the (often socioeconomic) vulnerability of their victims and may take the time to gain their trust before trafficking them. However, once trafficked, victims are subjected to physical and psychological means of coercion, including beatings, rape, enforced isolation, and threats to their families.
While estimates vary, the U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report estimates that 600,000 to 800,000 persons are trafficked annually across the globe, with approximately 15,000 of these being trafficked within or into the United States. If this seems unbelievable, keep in mind that in addition to the physical and psychological coercion tactics mentioned above, many of these victims are under constant guard, do not speak English, have no access to phones or other forms of communication, and may not trust the police.
Please explore the links below to learn more about this appalling crime and what you can do to fight it.
What kind of legislation has emerged to fight human trafficking?
What are some of the challenges facing human trafficking research?
Is human trafficking a problem in the U.S.?
Are men victims of human trafficking?
Anti-trafficking organizations: what you can do to help!
Where can I find out more information?
Photo copyright Brandon Stone. Used with permission.
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