One of the greatest evils that we face in the 21st century is the phenomenon of Human Trafficking. It is considered to be modern-day slavery with around 24.9 million victims trapped in it. According to a 2017 report by the International Labor Organization (ILO) and Walk Free Foundation, of the 24.9 million victims caught in trafficking rackets, around 64% were exploited for labour (16 million people), 19% exploited sexually (4.8 million), and 17% exploited in state-imposed labor (4.1 million). According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, ‘Human Trafficking’ is defined as, “The Act of 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.” More than half of the victims are women, another 20% are men, and the rest are children. Victims are either abducted, threatened or forced, or they or someone in charge of them is promised money and other material benefits. Many people get trapped in trafficking units since they are promised a job offer and an escape from their poverty, inability to provide for themselves, and their vulnerability. But they find that they have been tricked once they follow through the offer and then are unable to get out, usually isolated from their culture and unable to contact anyone they know.
Human trafficking can be transnational, which means that the victims are sent abroad to the place where they are exploited, or it could even be domestic, where the victims are not forced to travel as much but still exploited within their own country or community. Those who organize and execute such trafficking chains make huge amounts of money from these exploits of dehumanization which is one reason why it continues to grow. And most often, these people are never caught and get away with the illegal exploitation of thousands of people. The seemingly lax methods by which prosecution of traffickers are done and the fact that most of them never face any punishment or consequences are appalling and point to a need for more stringency in our systems of law. The fact that this is an exponentially growing industry in an age when we claim ourselves to be more civilized than ever before points to an ethical hollowness underneath our many jargons of progress.
Trafficking being such a pervasive global phenomenon means that you will probably come across a trafficker or a victim in your life. It is the need of the hour that we know how to respond to situations of crisis as well as be knowledgeable about these issues. Here are some practical things that can be done to fight human trafficking:
- Advocate for better laws and swifter actions on traffickers. Try to highlight the gravity of the issue in any way you can. Work with organizations that support this cause (like International Justice Mission, Apne Aap, Hope for Justice, Oasis India, Stop the traffik)
- Spread awareness about trafficking. Be informed and encourage others to do the same. Discourage people from accepting job offers whose sources seem obscure and unverifiable.
- Support organizations working towards finding and freeing those caught in trafficking. Ensure that these victims are protected and able to provide for themselves once they are back. Give them jobs and means to build a life, actively work against any stigma that may be surrounding them. Be considerate of their mental health since many of them will be severely traumatized by their experiences.
- Learn to identify signs that an individual might be in distress, particularly while traveling or in public spaces. A few of the things we can do is to look for signs of abuse or injury, if they are avoiding eye contact with most people, if they seem anxious about security checks or of anyone who approaches them, if they seem malnourished and uncomfortable but remains silent.
Human trafficking can be fought on multiple levels but it will only end when the masses are freed and the traffickers are vanquished. For that, we have to do much more than wheat we are doing now. We need to realize the importance of the issue and take it up on a global level, and we need to stop being silent on these issues by assuming that it will never happen to us. The day we stop being complicit to these acts by our silence will be the day change will begin.