Cliona Elliott,

Correspondent (Our World)


The idea of a fast growing slave industry including the sexual exploitation of children and the mutilation of organs in the 21st century seems ludicrous, but if you scratch the surface it seems that this futile yet lucrative industry is only the tip of a giant iceberg.

Every year, this $32 billion dollar industry destroys the lives of more than 30 million people, many being young women and children, in order to exploit them in industries including prostitution, slavery, involuntary servitude, debt bondage and compelling victims into creating pornography. Approximately 80% of victims are sexually exploited, with the average victim being only 12-14 years old when they enter the trade in the United States. Labour exploitation includes 19% of human trafficking victims, and although significantly less than sexual exploitation, this figure is steadily rising as the economic crisis worsens around the world.

After drug dealing, human trafficking in line with arms dealing, is the largest criminal industry in the world, and stands as the fastest growing trade in terms of the number of victims it pursues and the tainted profit it generates. With 20-30 million slaves in our world today, it’s an issue that cannot be ignored. Human Trafficking entails more than the destruction of the lives of its victims; the clothes we wear, the food we buy in supermarkets and even the mobile phones we use to phone our friends are highly likely to be involved in industries of the Human Trafficking food chain, meaning that even if we don’t like it, we are all integrated with the bi-products of this notorious industry.

Human trafficking operators mostly prey on poor and vulnerable people and communities. They often deceive multiple victims of the same community into a promised life of prosperity and comfort in jobs such as table waiting and cleaning, but in reality become the victims of physical and mental abuse. An estimated 30,000 victims of sex trafficking die each year from abuse, disease, torture, and neglect. A large number of these deaths are due to drug overdoses and infections such as HIV/AIDS from dirty needle sharing. Sex slaves in particular are more vulnerable to drug abuse and HIV/AIDS as they are often coaxed, if not forced into taking drugs such as heroine in order to prevent the struggle against the abuse they receive from operators and clients.

There are several questions raised when discussing Human Trafficking, such as why don’t the victims try to escape? Often victims of Human Trafficking are stripped of their identity and dignity (drugs help with this especially) causing them to become desperate and dependent on their operators for drugs and some sort of ‘home’- in spite of the horrendous things they have to endure. Besides, if it’s not the multiple threats of gang rape, starvation, physical beatings and threats of violence to the victim’s family, the prospect of starting a new life in a normal society is terrifying when they have been subjected to such treatment in isolation from normality.

How can Human Trafficking be stopped? ‘Stopped’ is probably the wrong word to use, and although it would be an idyllic situation, it is simply too unrealistic when considering the scale of the industry. However, the first step towards this is the importance of education and awareness. Educate yourself and others around you about the severity and danger of Trafficking, be aware of your local area and your neighbours, and act if you suspect any suspicious activity. But more importantly, pass on the information about Human Trafficking to your friends, family and anyone else to take a stand against 21st century slavery.

Image Courtesy: Imagens Evangélicas | Flickr