WASHINGTON, D.C. – By the time a reader finishes reading this sentence, four more individuals will be sold into human trafficking.
Every year, 2.5 million people across the globe are forced into human trafficking. Furthermore, less than 1% of the current 21 million trafficked individuals will ever be identified or rescued.
Human trafficking is defined as the “illegal trading of human beings for commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor,” according to the National Center for Victims of Crime. The epidemic of human trafficking is, moreover, a global one, affecting more than 161 countries worldwide.
A hearing held earlier this year by the Committee on Foreign Affairs highlighted local and private sector actions currently being taken to battle human trafficking while also presenting horrifying statistics on the current standings of human trafficking.
At the hearing, Don Knabe, Los Angeles County Supervisor for the Fourth District, identified the average age of prostitution being between the ages of 12 and 13. Knabe also explained that gangs see human trafficking as being more profitable than the trafficking of guns or drugs; a major factor in the issue of combating this catastrophe.
To put the numbers in perspective, on average, arms trafficking generates a $1 billion profit annually on a global scale. Drugs, on the other hand, account for anywhere between $10 billion to $25 billion dollars annually. Weapon and drug trafficking are dependent on various factors, and generally are easier to catch in raids or border control. What about human trafficking though?
Each year, human trafficking generates a whopping $31.6 billion dollar profit worldwide, with one-third of the risk presented in trafficking arms or drugs.
Studies conducted on human trafficking between 2008 and 2010 show that of 2,515 instances investigated by special task forces, 82% of those involved a sex trafficking allegation. Of this number, 40% involved a form of the prostitution or sexual exploitation of a child.
A common misconception that exists surrounding human trafficking is that the victims are always women. In confirmed instances of trafficking, 94% of sexual cases were female, however, in the terms of confirmed labor cases, 32% were male, with 68% being female.
Of the occasions that are confirmed, statistics show that in the United States, 83% of sexually trafficked individuals were U.S. citizens taken into captivity. Undocumented aliens account for 67% of labor trafficking situations in the U.S., with 28% being documented aliens.
In the hearing held discussing the calamity that is human trafficking, Chairman of Foreign Affairs, Ed Royce, emphasized the hurdles that need to be conquered in order to overcome this problem.
Legislative barriers play a crucial part in the fight against this tragedy. In the past, one challenge has been to treat those who have been trafficked as victims, and not as criminals who have committed illegal crimes. Proving that the trafficker knew the individual was a child in the first place, also poses a concern. In September 2012, however, every state except Wyoming enacted an anti-trafficking legislation–a big leap towards thwarting trafficker’s progress.
Public awareness is the key to making headway with this issue. Many individuals fail to realize that this epidemic is taking place in their own backyard. In fact, anti-trafficking hotlines are currently a focus of the Polaris Project, a non-profit that fights human trafficking. Furthermore, one of the hotlines that they operate has “played a role in identifying nearly 9,000 survivors of trafficking to date,” according to Bradley Myles, executive director and CEO of Polaris Project.
Yet a question remains, who are these traffickers?
Confirmed reports show that 52% of recruiters in human trafficking are men, while 42% of recruiters are women. Moreover, a shocking revelation resulting from various investigations demonstrates that 46% of recruiters are known by the victim, with 54% are total strangers.
Human trafficking affects 1.2 million children alone, each year. If captured children are unable to escape these conditions, they too are likely to grow up becoming recruiters for the vicious cycle that is human trafficking. It is essential that awareness is made toward ending this epidemic.