An illicit global trade

 

In its simplest definition, human trafficking is the selling of a human being to make money. But human trafficking is a lot more than that. It is a global trade in which a human being becomes a commodity. It affects all sectors of society with the primary targets worldwide being the youth, including children well below their teens.

Human trafficking is among the worst human rights violations. Due to its low costs and huge returns, it has become the 2nd largest international criminal industry after the arms trade, generating tremendous profits of an estimated US$150 billion per year, according to the ILO. The following is a breakdown of profits, by sector: $99 billion from commercial sexual exploitation, and $34 billion in construction, manufacturing, mining and utilities.

Although some 200 years have passed since the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, slavery as we know it has still not ended. Instead, it has evolved and exists today under a different form – that of human trafficking, which is also referred to as “modern-day slavery”. In fact, there are more slaves at work today than there has ever been at any point in history. The victims are either kidnapped or enticed under false pretenses, then held against their will. Many of them are forced to work long hours, under terrible conditions and without pay. Others are beaten, sexually abused, locked away or starved into submission.

 

 

Raising awareness and educating people about human trafficking is a collective responsibility. The lack of understanding, and the denial of the scope and nature of the crime, is still unfortunately very common today. This is due to continued challenges such as the definition of what human trafficking is, lack of data, failure to consider the labor-exploitative aspect of trafficking, poor understanding of the manifestation of the crime at the local level, and a lack of capacity to address the issue at all levels. The covert nature of this activity, and the frequent shame that victims feel should they come forward, also make it challenging to obtain accurate facts and figures. In addition, it is inconceivable for many to imagine that the buying and selling of human beings is actually a profitable trade that happens all over the world.

Not your life? Not your problem? Think again!