There is a malevolence that is sweeping across our world today. It is stealing childhoods, breaking apart families, severing souls, and breaking bodies. This malevolent force has a name…and that name is Human Trafficking. It is something that people feel ashamed to talk about because it is something so vile that even just saying the words aloud makes us feel dirty. However if we never talk about it then we are only allowing it to continue. So to help open the door so that more conversations can be had and more solutions can be found, here are the facts about human trafficking:
According to Article 3, paragraph (a) of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, human trafficking is defined as the:
recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring 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
But if you look past all of those fancy words and sprawling what is really at the heart of human trafficking? What is its essence, its life blood? The answer is simple yet extremely heavy: selling people for the pleasure and/or use of others. There is no way around it, and there is no way to sugar coat it. And in my opinion it is not something that we should ever want to sugar coat, or try to make light of. The truth, no matter how hard it is to see or to hear, is still the truth. And that truth is simple:
There are approximately 21 million people being trafficked around the world
(according to the International Labour Organization)
That means that there are some 21 million mothers, sisters, brothers, fathers, husbands, wives, and children that are being bought and sold like commodities. Out of those 21 million people, 4.5 million of them are being sold for sex. That’s the same as the population of Los Angeles, CA being bought and sold on the street as easily as groceries.
There are five main types of human trafficking that occur in our world today:
- Forced Labour (including Debt Bondage, and Involuntary Domestic Servitude)
- Sex Trafficking
- Child Labour
- Child Sexual Labour
- Child Soldiers
To break things down for you just a little bit further, out of those 21 million people trapped in modern day slavery, 22% (4620000 people) are caught in the grips of sex traffickers, 68% (14280000 people) are forced into private labour, and 10% (2100000 people) are trapped in involuntary state-imposed work. I think that all too often we think of human trafficking as only pertaining to sex trafficking and that becomes the only thing that we focus on. And while sex trafficking is a truly horrendous affair; we can’t forget about the 70 year old grandmother who was forced into years of involuntary domestic servitude, or the children who are made to pay off the supposed debts of their parents by working in factories or being forced to join a hostile militia. It’s not only the people that we can see, it’s everyone who is hidden behind closed doors or in locked rooms.
Every year $150 billion is made through human trafficking
Trafficking is the fastest growing and most lucrative criminal business in the world. This is because you can only sell a drug once, however you can sell a body hundreds of times. Of that $150 billion, $99 billion comes from the sex trade. Depending on the country and the person that is being bought, a victim of trafficking can be bought anywhere from $2.00 to $11,000.00. However these people are then sold over and over and over again for the pleasure of others. Whether they are sold for $2.00 or for $11,000 their lives are worth immeasurably more, and to think that someone is willing to reduce their life and their worth to dollars and cents is sickening.
Human trafficking happens on every continent
All too often we think of the buying and selling of people as something that happens “out there”. We wave our hand in the air motioning to countries and places far beyond our “civilized” boarders and say that things like that could never happen where we live. We live in a first world country, there’s no way that people would do such an awful and disgusting thing here. We have better morals than that. However there is no hiding it and no escaping from the truth: People are bought and sold, and kidnapped and auctioned off, are forced into labour, are made to have sex over and over again…all right in our own country. Right in our own cities. Right in our own neighbourhoods. Right in our own backyards.
According to Statistics Canada, in 2014 there were “206 police-reported violations of human trafficking in Canada,” however that only accounts for those cases that were reported, while the number of unreported cases is believed to be significantly higher. The report also states that “the majority of victims were female (93%), while the majority of accused were male (83%). Between 2009 and 2014, 47% of victims of police-reported human trafficking were between the ages 18 and 24, while one-quarter (25%) were under the age of 18. Persons accused of police-reported human trafficking tended to be under the age of 35.” This is not something that happens in other parts of the world, and it is not something that we can ignore.
How long will you wait to act?
This is an industry that thrives on being invisible. It would not be as successful as it is if it were out in the open; if we were to be able to see the money changing hands and the lives being stolen. It thrives on the anonymity of it all, it feeds off of the secrecy and the shame. It grows stronger by stealing the voices of those that it ensnares. And it grows stronger because of the unfamiliarity of the general population. There are so many people out there who either don’t know that it is happening, or are apathetic towards it. I’m not pointing fingers here, because for a long time I too was one of those people who would hear about these atrocious things happening and say “Man, that’s awful someone should do something.” Yet I never did anything about it, I never reacted to that conviction that something was terribly and horribly wrong. But now I am. Now I am making an effort, I am taking a stand, I am becoming an advocate. I have stood idly by for far too long. I have let far too many lives be stolen before I acted.
The only question now is: how long will you wait to act?
*Note: My intention throughout this article was to use language that would evoke certain feelings within the reader. I wanted to show the atrocity of these crimes, and to make you feel that while you were reading, and to maybe make you feel a little bit uncomfortable while you read. But I also wanted to show the humanity of it all. To show you that these people are not commodities to be auctioned off and bought, and that we should not think of them as broken or less than because of what has happened to them. We should think of them as people, just like us, with souls and hopes and dreams.