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What Is Human Trafficking? And How Can We Stop It?

August 05th, 2019
by:Murat Suner
tags:human trafficking, modern slavery

Human trafficking involves the forced abduction, transportation, and eventual exploitation of, usually, impoverished human beings who are unable to protect themselves from poachers.

Each year more than 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders – mostly leading them into various forms of modern slavery. The victims of this type of slavery are usually coerced into working as sex slaves, forced to work for free in dangerous working conditions or sold to other people and made to do any number of things. 

According to the International Labour Organization , at any given time in 2016 over 40 million people were in modern slavery, around 25 million were in forced labour and 15 million were married to people against their will. You'd be forgiven for thinking that these statistics have been dug out of a history book, but they're only from 3 years ago. The ILO also estimated that every 1 in 4 victims were children.

What are the signs?

Victims of this type of slavery can look just like the rest of us, so it can be hard to see any obvious signs on all of them. However, certain behavioural characteristics (and physical attributes) may alert you to a person in danger, and perhaps you could save them from further suffering by alerting an authority.

According to the Nevada Attorney General's website a person may be a victim of trafficking if they;

  • Show signs of physical abuse, such as bruising
  • Avoid eye contact and social interaction
  • Live at their place of employment
  • Check into hotels with older males and use the term "daddy" which is slang for a pimp
  • Not being allowed to go in public alone
  • Not being allowed to speak without being given permission
  • If they are a small child working in a restaurant
  • If they look severely malnourished

What Are Some Examples?

Human trafficking can take many forms. However, a few examples include:

  • Women and girls being forced into sex slavery
  • Forced labour for children, who are made to work in dangerous conditions
  • Victims being abducted and made to beg on the streets for their captors
  • Organ removal
  • Forced into sham marriages

Who is most at risk?

These poachers can target anyone who is exploitable, whether these victims are in their own country or abroad. However, according to the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime 79% of all human trafficking victims are women and children. Furthermore, people from countries with a high level of organised crime are even more vulnerable to this kind of slavery.

The report goes on to state that in 2 years over 500 different trafficking flows were detected and victims were made up of 137 different nationalities, meaning that this type of criminal activity can happen almost anywhere.

Those people who have been victims of modern day slavery can end up having lifelong psychological issues, derived from their time as a slave.

These people have likely suffered from excessive force by their captors, and degradation; both of these factors can negatively shape the rest of their lives and force them to struggle to assimilate back into normal society.

Furthermore, victims can experience trauma as a result of; the abusive relationships they had if they were in the sex slave industry, domestic violence from their sham marriages where they were were not respected as a human being, gang rape, prolonged exhaustion from being overworked. 

The trauma they experience can lead to depression, high levels of anxiety, self-loathing and substance abuse to deal with the pain inside them.

If this was not enough, some sex slaves can pick up HIV/AIDS from having non-consensual, un-protected sex with multiple partners.

What is being done to prevent this?

Many nations have their own independent anti-trafficking laws and acts, however, the UNODC has made great efforts to offer consultation and help to nations on how to structure laws to prevent this criminal activity, and to protect its victims, even developing a toolkit to combat this type of criminal activity .

In 2000, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the UNODCs protocol against this criminal activity, and via their 'Global Programme against Trafficking in Persons' they hope to tackle the modern day slavery issue that is plaguing our global society.

Article written by:
murat sw portrait
Murat Suner
Co-founder, Editorial Board Member, Author
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Detained and handcuffed Chinese nationals hide their faces as they arrive at a court after being arrested by the Pakistani Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officials for alleged involvement in a trafficking ring to lure women from Pakistan into fake marriages then forcing them into prostitution in China, in Islamabad on May 9, 2019. - Pakistan arrested at least eight Chinese nationals for allegedly luring young Pakistani girls into fake marriages then forcing them into prostitution in China, authorities confirmed to AFP on May 7.
LIMA, PERU - SEPTEMBER 27: Detail of the arrest warrant of the alleged child traffickers on September 27, 2019 in Lima, Peru. The Special Operation 'Los Bastardos de Ceres' involved three raids, the detention of Narciso Chacon Zavala (34) and Abner Bryan Rojas Borja (20) and the rescue of a girl of 16.
A victim of human trafficking in Libya sews clothes at Idia Renaissance non-governmental organisation in Benin, Edo State, midwest Nigeria, on October 21, 2016. In 2015, 153,000 migrants arrived in the European Union via the Italian coast, according to the International Organization for Migration. The largest number -- about 22,000 -- were Nigerians. In May last year, Brussels opened talks with Abuja to make "readmission agreements" easier and oblige Nigeria to take back its nationals. Idia Renaissance NGO is focused to combat human trafficking, prostitution, HIV/AIDS and other anti-social vices through advocacy, information, counselling and education.
Members of the Africa Diaspora Forum (ADF), civil society organisations, churches, trade unions and other coalitions wear chains and shout slogans during a demonstration against the slave trade and human trafficking in Libya on December 12, 2017 at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. The UN Security Council on December 7 said reports that migrants detained in Libyan camps were being sold into slavery could amount to "crimes against humanity" in a joint statement of condemnation.
Demonstration against slavery after CNN's revelations about human trafficking in Libya, Lyon, France, December 2, 2017.
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