National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month

In December 2016, President Barack Obama instituted January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. In his proclamation he stated, “Today, in too many places around the world – including right here in the United States – the injustice of modern slavery and human trafficking still tears at our social fabric.”

When thinking about Human Trafficking most people think of sex trafficking, however there are other ways that people are being bought and sold including forced labor, domestic servitude, organ harvesting, child soldiers and forced marriage. Millions of people throughout the world, including right here in the United States, are being forced into a life that is not of their choosing.

We must all raise our voices to shut down this billion-dollar industry! There are numerous actions that can be taken to help to increase public awareness and to stop this horrible injustice. Will you take the time to read and act?

  1. On Thursday, January 11th, participate in “The Blue Campaign by wearing a blue ribbon. Spread the word by distributing blue ribbons to others and taking a picture of yourself, your friends, family and co-workers wearing blue ribbons and post on social media with #WearBlueDay. Include a statement to explain the meaning of the ribbon and why you are participating.
  2. Go to the App Store and download:
    • TraffickCam App: Each time you travel, use the TraffickCam App to take pictures of your hotel room to add to the national database used by law enforcement to track places where trafficking is taking place.
    • The STOP App: Use the STOP app to report suspicious activity related to trafficking.
    • Sweat and Toil App: The Sweat & Toil app to learn how goods are produced and by whom.
  3. Visit Know The Chain to educate yourself about the risk of forced labor in the apparel, food, and technology industries.
  4. Check your state’s report card. States receive grades from A to F from Shared Hope International, which keeps a close eye on how each state meets certain criteria related to stopping human trafficking.
  5.  Save, post, and distribute the National Human Trafficking hotline number.
  6. When traveling, choose a hotel that has signed the Tourism Children Protection Code of Conduct sponsored by EPCAT-USA.
  7. Ask your church or organization to include an announcement in the bulletin (or elsewhere) regarding National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, noting that January 11th is “Wear Blue Day.” Encourage others to get involved in the movement to educate others by hosting workshops or presentations.
  8. Take the steps to learn more! Try these websites:

For additional tips to learn more about human trafficking, don’t hesitate to contact the Office of Migration & Modern Slavery!

What is Known About Human Trafficking

Much has been written about the scope of human trafficking throughout the world. While there isn’t an agreement as to exact numbers due to the difficulty in identifying victims, there is a general acceptance of certain components of human trafficking.

  1. Human trafficking responds to and is driven by demand for cheap goods and commercialized sex. And this demand is enormous! Indeed, human trafficking is a business that generates a profit of approximately $32 billion annually. There are around 30 million trafficked people around the world, including some 5.5 million children.
  2. Human trafficking is a crime that is gendered, the primary victims being women and girls. However, the number of trafficked men and boys is increasing. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UN ODC) report indicates that women constitute approximately 51% of trafficked persons, men 21%, girls 20%, and boys 8%. This report identifies the most common form of trafficking is sexual exploitation, which is most in demand in western and southern Europe.
  3. Some forms of human trafficking are a result of other types of crises, such as forced armed recruitment of child soldiers, the demand for exploitative sexual services by armed groups, or the enslavement of persecuted ethnic minorities. The links between other forms of human trafficking and crisis situations are less direct, such as the opportunistic trafficking of displaced persons for the purposes of forced labor in neighboring countries or cases where children are trafficked into the international adoption market.
  4. Human trafficking is both global and local. That is, many human traffickers are recognized as being highly organized criminal networks with a very broad reach. This, frequently combined with extensive government corruption, means that many trafficking organizations are international forces. At the same time, however, the forms of trafficking that emerge in communities are not uniform. The rules of supply and demand state that the nature, shape, and form of trafficking will be different depending on the community. For example, labor trafficking on a rural South American coffee farm will be different from sex trafficking in a Korean nightclub. However, both manifestations of the crime may arise from a highly organized criminal network with local connections that allow them to deceive and/or control the local source of victims and to engage in the necessary corruption to create a successful business empire.
  5. Victims of modern slavery are often subject to inhuman living conditions and psychological and physical abuse. They face starvation and drug addition in order for traffickers to assert control over them. Traffickers are known to threaten and/or harm victims’ family members.
  6. Modern slavery is a complex issue caused by many dynamic and interdependent elements that makes it too difficult for any single organization to solve it alone.
  7. Human trafficking is a crime in itself, but it is rarely the end goal for a perpetrator. Once the act of human trafficking is complete, it normally leads to further crimes like enslavement, sexual and/or physical violence, etc.
  8. Combatting human trafficking has never been more challenging, especially in the midst of the worst migration crisis since World War II. Migrants, especially refugees, are vulnerable to traffickers abusing their situation and preying on their desperation for a safe haven. However, “most people are never identified as trafficking victims are, therefore, cannot access most of the assistance or protection provided.” This is often the case as the movement of refugees and migrants is significantly mixed, making it easier for traffickers to infiltrate and prey upon the vulnerable.

Do you ever feel as if the issues of human trafficking is too big to make a difference? While the issues cannot be solved by one individual, that one person can make a difference! Learning about and getting involved in the fight against human trafficking has changed many lives.

Federal Government Seizes Backpage

By now, you’ve probably heard that, on April 6, the federal government has seized and disabled Backpage.com and affiliated websites. This is a huge step forward as the nation recognizes sexual exploitation as intolerable; however, there is still much work to be done.

Over the past several years, Backpage and other websites have posted an online environment where it is as easy to purchase a human being for sex as it is to order a pizza. Buyers will no longer be able to easily access such websites and the rates of exploitation of vulnerable people will sharply decline.

“Backpage has earned hundreds of millions of dollars from facilitating prostitution and sex trafficking, placing profits over the well-being and safety of the many thousands of women and children who were victimized by its practices,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth A. Strange. “It is appropriate that Backpage is now facing criminal charges in Arizona, where the company was founded, and I applaud the tremendous efforts of the agents who contributed to last Friday’s enforcement action and who assisted in obtaining the indictment in this case. Some of the internal emails and company documents described in the indictment are shocking in their callousness.”

Currently, Backpage is the world’s second largest classified advertising website. It is valued at more than $500 million and is operating in 97 countries and 943 locations worldwide.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), Backpage is involved in 73% of the suspected child trafficking reports it receives from the public. In the words of Massachusetts Attorney General, Maura Healey, “the vast majority of prosecutions for sex trafficking now involve online advertising, and most of those advertisements appear on Backpage.”

Last year, the NCMEC reported an 846& increased from 2010-2015 in reports of suspected child sex trafficking which they surmised to be “directly correlated to the increased use of the internet to sell children for sex,” said Amy Zimmerman in the Daily Beast.

I applaud those who have helped in any way to accomplishing this feat! This is one giant leap forward in the fight against modern day slavery!

Slavery Around the World

I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again, modern slavery is an international issue! While some traffickers are working within the confines of a country, others are crossing borders every day. But, in one form of slavery or another (or, unfortunately, multiple forms), slavery is prevalent in every single country throughout the world.

Every year, the U.S. State Department investigates countries for its Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report. In 2017, 23 countries were classified as Tier 3 countries, meaning they “do not fully meet the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.” What are these countries? Maybe not-surprisingly, they include Russia, China, Iran, Belarus, and Venezuela. You can read the report and access the full listing of countries here.

This classification does not imply that trafficking exists only in these countries. Additionally, there are different types of trafficking that are most prevalent in different areas of the world. For example, in India, forced marriage or becoming a “slave bride” is a main concern for young girls. This stems from sex-selective abortions in which male babies were preferred, creating one of the most severe gender imbalances in the world. Read more here.

In North Korea, workers are shipped to China to process seafood that will be shipped to and sold in American homes and restaurants. These workers have no privacy, no access to telephones or email, and cannot leave the compounds without permission. They receive a fraction of their owed salaries, and it is taken from them by the North Korean government. Read more here.

Similarly, girls from Eastern Asia are smuggled to Myanmar to work as maids (read more here) while African girls are fleeing from their home countries to be forced into sex slavery. Specifically, often into Chad where girls become “ghost girls” with no way out. Read more here.

Girls in South American countries don’t always have it any better. El Salvador, being riddled with gang violence, is seeing female-only gangs. Girls feel forced to enter a gang to protect themselves but instead, are stripped of all of their freedom. This is due in part by the high number of femicides (gender-motivated killing of women), most of which are never prosecuted. Read more here.

In Kyrgyzstan, domestic violence runs rampant. Due to the level of cultural acceptance of abuse of women, the country has an extremely high number of women in jail for murder, specifically for murder of their husbands. Read more here.

First-world countries are not exempt from these horrors. In Britain, labor slaves are tricked in to working 12+ hour days at hand carwashes. They end up trapped in debt bondage, unable to escape their captors. Read more here.

This is not an exhaustive list. Instead, it should be seen as evidence that modern slavery is everywhere and it manifests in different forms. Even in countries classified in the TIP report as Tier 1 countries, such as the United States, Israel, Colombia, Taiwan, and Belgium, there exists a level of modern slavery, despite laws to combat it. In fact, Britain is considered a Tier 1.

So, what must be done? We must work together, internationally, to create a safe place for migrants and victims of human trafficking. We must work together to create laws against human traffickers and smugglers. We must work together to end modern slavery for good.

World Day Against Trafficking in Persons

The World Day Against Trafficking in persons was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution A/RES/68/192. It is to take place tomorrow, July 30.

Trafficking in persons is a serious crime and a grave violation of human rights. Every year, thousands of men, women, and children fall into the hands of traffickers in their own countries and abroad. Almost every country in the world is affected by trafficking whether as a country of origin, transit, or destination for victims. UNODC, as a guardian of the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and the protocols thereto assists States in their efforts to implement the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons (Trafficking in Persons Protocol).

Article 3 paragraph (a) of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons defines trafficking in persons as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power, or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.

So, how can you help?

Learn about the local and global reality of human trafficking.
Pray for an end to human trafficking.
Demand slave-free products and buy fair trade when possible.
Advocate for state and federal legislation that protects victims and prevents human trafficking.

Originally published by the United Nations.

World Day Against Child Labor

World Day Against Child Labor is June 12, 2017. To commemorate this day, imagine yourself as a child in a country riddled with conflict.

Imagine waking up and getting ready for school, only to find it destroyed by bombs. Imagine that the violence and terror ravaging your village has left your home in shambles and your family ready to run at the first chance you get.

This is a reality for many children living in countries marked by conflict, instability, and disaster. These issues tear apart homes, communities, and entire nations. They strip people of their basic human rights and fill the holes with poverty, starvation, uncertainty, and enormous loss. These issues kill loved ones and tear people away from their homes.

These devastating effects are a threat to children in particular, causing school closures, loss of parents, and forced flight from their homes. These children are often left as internally displaced persons or are forced to flee the country as refugees. This in turn makes them extremely vulnerable to trafficking and child labor.

Today, 168 million children are victims of child labor. A large portion of this number are children who come form areas filled with conflict and disaster, including Latin America and the Caribbean. In fact, 5.7 million child laborers are working in this particular region, many working in agriculture, mining, dumpsites, fireworks manufacturing, fishing, and domestic labor. Commercial sexual exploitation, armed conflict, and drug trade also increases the demand for child labor in the area.

The International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC) is away of the demand in this labor market and has marked it as a priority target group, seeking to end child labor in this area. Specifically, they are working to known define and map dangerous labor sites and develop child labor monitoring systems.

Click here to read more fact and statistics on child labor.

Girls Suffer in Guatemala from Lack of Education

Imagine being pregnant and not knowing how it happened. Not knowing what you did to make a baby.

This may sound crazy…everyone knows where babies come from. But this isn’t the case in Guatemala. Angela, a Guatemalan teenager, had her first child at the age of 14 before she knew anything about it.

“I [knew] they would come from your belly, but I didn’t know how you could make them,” she says after finding herself pregnant with her teacher’s child.

This isn’t uncommon in her country. In fact, Guatemala has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy due to lack of sex education. Many new mothers don’t even know the correct terms for their own body parts.

In 2014, there were more than 5,000 pregnancies in girls under the age of 14 in the country. This number is assisted by the high rates of sexual violence against young girls. Many of the previously mentioned 5,000 pregnancies were from a close family member.

By 19, most Guatemalan women have two children. They’ve dropped out of school to care for them and struggle to make ends meet. Many times, the women are forced to marry the father of their children, despite domestic abuse in the relationship. All of these factors reinforce the cycle of poverty and violence throughout the country.

You can read more about how the Guatemalan government is working to improve conditions for women and young girls here.