A few years ago, the leaders of the Junior League of Salt Lake City began researching new opportunities that would help them be more effective as a volunteer organization and a women's leadership group. After learning about human trafficking and its impact on women and children, they decided it was time to get involved.
Human trafficking is a global problem. However, its solutions are found in local communities like Salt Lake City. When individual citizens, businesses, volunteer organizations, and government agencies all work together, they can make a real impact on the human trafficking problem. And if we are ever to end this scourge, it is going to take a true community effort that starts at the local level and spreads all across the globe.
Human Trafficking by the Numbers
The International Labor Organization (ILO) and Walk Free Foundation collaborated in 2017 to issue a statistical report on human trafficking. A thorough reading of the report reveals some shocking numbers:
- Nearly 25 million people are believed to be currently trapped in modern-day slavery
- Some 71% of all trafficking victims are female; 29% are male
- Approximately 75% of victims are 18 years or older; the remainder are children
- Human trafficking generates nearly $150 billion annually.
The Asia-Pacific region accounts for the largest number of trafficking victims, accounting for 62% of the total. It is followed by Africa (23%) Europe and Central Asia (9% each), the Americas (5%), and the Arab States (1%).
The Many Faces of Human Trafficking
We routinely think of human trafficking in the context of the sex trade. Surprisingly enough, only 19% of all victims are victimized sexually. The remaining 81% are victimized by forced labor, whether through private business (64%) or state-imposed forced labor (17%).
In simple terms, prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation are only the tip of the human trafficking iceberg. Millions of people are also exploited by being forced to work for little or no pay.
Human trafficking denies women their freedom and ability to make choices. It denies children the right to grow up in a normal, well-adjusted family with plenty of opportunities to earn and enjoy life. It denies men the opportunity to do an honest day's work for an honest day's pay.
Human trafficking is wrong on every level. It is wrong regardless of the sex of the person it is perpetrated against. It is wrong regardless of whether it is imposed within the sex trade or through forced labor. And the only way to right this wrong is to attack it at the local level.
Recognize the Signs
While the tools to go after human traffickers rest in the hands of the authorities, everyone has a role to play in defeating this great evil. It starts with learning to recognize the signs of human trafficking. According to the Junior League of Salt Lake City, here are some red flags to look for among people who might be victims of human trafficking:
- An unexplained lack of knowledge about the local area
- Restrictions on how and when a person is allowed to communicate
- A lack of personal identification (e.g., driver’s license, government-issued ID, etc.)
- Unkempt appearance including possible signs of malnutrition and dehydration
- Strange tattoos that may appear to be identification marks.
It is imperative that anyone who suspects the possibility of a human trafficking situation report those suspicions to local authorities. If we all take a proactive approach toward learning to identify and report human trafficking, we can finally get the ball rolling toward eradicating it altogether.