Did you know there are over 30 Million slaves in the world today? That’s more than any other point in history. Just think about that for a moment. In this modern era, and in your generation, there are more people being forced to work against their will than ever before. How can this be? We’ve progressed as a society in so many ways… but there are still millions who are being worked, imprisoned, abused, and beaten in some of the most horrible conditions possible.
Human trafficking goes beyond all racial backgrounds and national borders. Traffickers don’t target any specific group of people, they just look where they can make the most money. Read more about that here, or look at a map. No country is unaffected by human trafficking. This problem takes many forms around the world: forcing victims into prostitution, subjecting individuals to slavery or involuntary servitude, the use of people to commit sex acts for the purpose of creating pornography, misleading workers into debt bondage, and more.
According to the U.S. State Department, 800,000 people are trafficked every year. And approximately 1 million children enter the commercial sex-trade annually. Every year, an average 17,500 are trafficked into the United States. Some estimates say that there are approximately 100,000 – 150,000 slaves in the U.S. right now…. but “fewer than 1,000 victims have been assisted through the efforts of federal, state, and local law enforcement since 2001, when services for trafficking victims were first made available.” I don’t know about you, but that’s unacceptable to me.
In doing the research for this post, I came across these facts, and must share them with you. There are even more at the website, and it also lists their sources. Please be aware, some of these statistics may be disturbing or offensive.
- Approximately 75-80% of human trafficking is for sex.
- Researchers note that sex trafficking plays a major role in the spread of HIV.
- There are an estimated 27 million adults and 13 million children around the world who are victims of human trafficking.
- Human trafficking not only involves sex and labor, but people are also trafficked for organ harvesting.
- Human traffickers often use a Sudanese phrase “use a slave to catch slaves,” meaning traffickers send “broken-in girls” to recruit younger girls into the sex trade. Sex traffickers often train girls themselves, raping them and teaching them sex acts.
- Eighty percent of North Koreans who escape into China are women. Nine out of 10 of those women become victims of human trafficking, often for sex. If the women complain, they are deported back to North Korea, where they are thrown into gulags or are executed.
- An estimated 30,000 victims of sex trafficking die each year from abuse, disease, torture, and neglect. Eighty percent of those sold into sexual slavery are under 24, and some are as young as six years old.
- Ludwig “Tarzan” Fainberg, a convicted trafficker, said, “You can buy a woman for $10,000 and make your money back in a week if she is pretty and young. Then everything else is profit.”
- H human trafficker can earn 20 times what he or she paid for a girl. Provided the girl was not physically brutalized to the point of ruining her beauty, the pimp could sell her again for a greater price because he had trained her and broken her spirit, which saves future buyers the hassle. A 2003 study in the Netherlands found that, on average, a single sex slave earned her pimp at least $250,000 a year.
- Although human trafficking is often a hidden crime and accurate statistics are difficult to obtain, researchers estimate that more than 80% of trafficking victims are female. Over 50% of human trafficking victims are children.
- The end of the Cold War has resulted in the growth of regional conflicts and the decline of borders. Many rebel groups turn to human trafficking to fund military actions and garner soldiers.
- According to a 2009 Washington Times article, the Taliban buys children as young as seven years old to act as suicide bombers. The price for child suicide bombers is between $7,000-$14,000.
- UNICEF estimates that 300,000 children younger than 18 are currently trafficked to serve in armed conflicts worldwide.
- Human traffickers are increasingly trafficking pregnant women for their newborns. Babies are sold on the black market, where the profit is divided between the traffickers, doctors, lawyers, border officials, and others. The mother is usually paid less than what is promised her, citing the cost of travel and creating false documents. A mother might receive as little as a few hundred dollars for her baby.
- More than 30% of all trafficking cases in 2007-2008 involved children being sold into the sex industry.
- The Western presence in Kosovo, such as NATO troops and civilians, have fueled the rapid growth of sex trafficking and forced prostitution. Amnesty International has reported that NATO soldiers, UN police, and Western aid workers “operated with near impunity in exploiting the victims of the sex traffickers.”
- Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” video is about human trafficking. In the video, Gaga is trafficked by a Russian bathhouse into sex slavery.
- Human trafficking is the only area of transnational crime in which women are significantly represented—as victims, as perpetrators, and as activists fighting this crime.
- Over 71% of trafficked children show suicidal tendencies.
- After sex, the most common form of human trafficking is forced labor. Researchers argue that as the economic crisis deepens, the number of people trafficked for forced labor will increase.
- Most human trafficking in the United States occurs in New York, California, and Florida.
- According to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), over the past 30 years, over 30 million children have been sexually exploited through human trafficking.
- Several countries rank high as source countries for human trafficking, including Belarus, the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Albania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Romania, China, Thailand, and Nigeria.
- Belgium, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Thailand, Turkey, and the U.S. are ranked very high as destination countries of trafficked victims.
- Women are trafficked to the U.S. largely to work in the sex industry (including strip clubs, peep and touch shows, massage parlors that offer sexual services, and prostitution). They are also trafficked to work in sweatshops, domestic servitude, and agricultural work.
- Sex traffickers use a variety of ways to “condition” their victims, including subjecting them to starvation, rape, gang rape, physical abuse, beating, confinement, threats of violence toward the victim and victim’s family, forced drug use, and shame.
- Family members will often sell children and other family members into slavery; the younger the victim, the more money the trafficker receives. For example, a 10-year-old named Gita was sold into a brothel by her aunt. The now 22-year-old recalls that when she refused to work, the older girls held her down and stuck a piece of cloth in her mouth so no one would hear her scream as she was raped by a customer. She would later contract HIV.
- Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises because it holds relatively low risk with high profit potential. Criminal organizations are increasingly attracted to human trafficking because, unlike drugs, humans can be sold repeatedly.
- Human trafficking is estimated to surpass the drug trade in less than five years. Journalist Victor Malarek reports that it is primarily men who are driving human trafficking, specifically trafficking for sex.
- Victims of human trafficking suffer devastating physical and psychological harm. However, due to language barriers, lack of knowledge about available services, and the frequency with which traffickers move victims, human trafficking victims and their perpetrators are difficult to catch.
- Human trafficking around the globe is estimated to generate a profit of anywhere from $9 billion to $31.6 billion. Half of these profits are made in industrialized countries.
- Some human traffickers recruit handicapped young girls, such as those suffering from Down Syndrome, into the sex industry.
- Human trafficking is a global phenomenon that is fueled by poverty and gender discrimination.
- Human traffickers often work with corrupt government officials to obtain travel documents and seize passports.
- Women and girls from racial minorities in the U.S. are disproportionately recruited by sex traffickers in the U.S.
- The Sunday Telegraph in the U.K. reports that hundreds of children as young as six are brought to the U.K. as slaves each year.
- Japan is a major hub of sex trafficking.
- Japan is considered the largest market for Asian women trafficked for sex.
- Airports are often used by human traffickers to hold “slave auctions,” where women and children are sold into prostitution.
- Due to globalization, every continent of the world has been involved in human trafficking, including a country as small as Iceland.
- Many times, if a sex slave is arrested, she is imprisoned while her trafficker is able to buy his way out of trouble.
- Today, slaves are cheaper than they have ever been in history. The population explosion has created a great supply of workers, and globalization has created people who are vulnerable and easily enslaved.
- Human trafficking and smuggling are similar but not interchangeable. Smuggling is transportation based. Trafficking is exploitation based.
- Sex traffickers often recruit children because not only are children are more unsuspecting and vulnerable than adults, but there is also a high market demand for young victims. Traffickers target victims on the telephone, on the Internet, through friends, at the mall, and in after-school programs.
- Human trafficking has been reported in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and in some U.S. territories.
- The FBI estimates that over 100,000 children and young women are trafficked in America today. They range in age from 9 to 19, with the average being age 11. Many victims are not just runaways or abandoned, but are from “good” families who are coerced by clever traffickers.
- Brazil and Thailand are generally considered to have the worst child sex trafficking records.
- The AIDS epidemic in Africa has left many children orphaned, making them especially vulnerable to human trafficking.
- Nearly 7,000 Nepali girls as young as nine years old are sold every year into India’s red-light district—or 200,000 in the last decade. Ten thousand children between the ages of six and 14 are in Sri Lanka brothels.
- Human trafficking victims face physical risks, such as drug and alcohol addiction, contracting STDs, sterility, miscarriages, forced abortions, vaginal and anal trauma, among others. Psychological effects include developing clinical depression, personality and dissociative disorders, suicidal tendencies, Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
- The largest human trafficking case in recent U.S. history occurred in Hawaii in 2010. Global Horizons Manpower, Inc., a labor-recruiting company, bought 400 immigrants in 2004 from Thailand to work on farms in Hawaii. They were lured with false promises of high-paying farm work, but instead their passports were taken away and they were held in forced servitude until they were rescued in 2010.
- According to the U.S. State Department, human trafficking is one of the greatest human rights challenges of this century, both in the United States and around the world.
Another issue that doesn’t receive much national attention, is the fact that pirated movies and music frequently help pay traffickers. “…the cash they pay lines the pockets of serious, organised criminals, who use the profits from film piracy to fuel their trade in human traffic, hard drugs or even terrorism.” I’m sure that speaks to all of us in an alarming way. Maybe you’ve never intentionally purchased a pirated movie or song, but every time you download that “free file share,” there’s a chance it helped a trafficker. A very small chance perhaps, but not one I’d be willing to live with. Have you ever considered why that song was free? I guarantee you it’s not out of the goodness of someone’s heart who pines at the thought of teenagers not being able to freely listen to their favorite artists. Those websites have sponsors, and they have advertisers, and the more website hits there are, the more money there is to be made. It makes sense when you realize that many “free music” websites have banner ads or pop-up windows that show soft porn, hoping you’ll click on the link to go to their site. So even though you never purchased something pirated, you did help support it, and doing so, you helped support sex trafficking…. that makes you think, doesn’t it?
On the subject of pornography, if you purchase, or view freely online any form of porn, you are either directly or indirectly supporting this horrible industry. You may think that all the women, men, and children in the images are doing it at their own free will, but you would be mistaken. It’s true that some people make this their “profession,” but most (if not all) are doing it out of desperation, hopelessness, the need for attention, or because of trafficking. So, just like piracy, even if you never paid to view those images, you did visit the website, and that makes money for advertisers and those in the sex-trade industry. The same is true with drugs. If you’ve purchased or used illegal or street drugs of any kind, you very likely helped support human trafficking. Nothing we do impacts only ourselves, everything we do has consequences on others in some way, either in direct affect, or through our witness.
After reading all of these facts, maybe you’re a bit overwhelmed.
Maybe this is a problem that is bigger than you realized. You’re probably asking, what can be done to stop this? What can I do? There are many organizations that are taking action against trafficking. The International Justice Mission, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Not For Sale Campaign, the Polaris Project, NightLight International, and many others are fighting for the rights of slaves around the world. The actions of IJM and others perform strategic operations that break up underground trafficking syndicates. Many stories can be read on the IJM website and others about individuals who have been saved from a life of abuse and forced labor. Ministries like NightLight are providing rescued women a chance to make a living by teaching them how to make and sell their own jewelry. The picture to the right is a bracelet I purchased last semester from NightLight. It was hand-made by a woman who was forced into the sex-trade industry, but now is making jewelry and selling it to support her family. She and many other women are finding hope and a sense of worth because they are no longer treated as chattel, but like the beautiful children of God that they are.
One step you can make right now to Lift Your Voice on this issue is to sign the petition on the IJM website. Join the other thousands who are speaking out. Ask President Obama to take a major stand on this issue. Together we can help stop human trafficking. We can spread the awareness of the seriousness of this issue. We can take a stand against the other illegal activities that promote trafficking (like piracy, porn, and drugs). And we can lift our voices in unison and declare that we value the lives of all people. We value their rights because we know Who they were created by. Whether they know it or not, each one of these victims is in the image of the living God Who came to save all humanity. We must raise our voices and tell the world that because of Him, we cannot stand idly by and allow innocent lives to be destroyed in this way. Together we can make a difference. But your voice must join in. Will you Lift Your Voice?