The world can be one dark place if you look closely enough to see its dark corners. With wars, world hunger, and displacement, millions of people are facing injustice. However, some of the less spoken about vicious crimes are also violating human rights. For instance, human-trafficking devastates the lives of about 800,000 men, women and children worldwide, and yet many choose to bite their tongue when it comes to it.
#HumanTrafficking is a heinous form of #GBV. Those most at risk incl. #Indigenous women/girls, migrants/new immigrants, #LGBTQ2 individuals, persons living with disabilities, children in the child welfare system, at-risk #youth, and those who are otherwise disadvantaged.#16Days pic.twitter.com/VcXF8JsgK6— Women and Gender Equality Canada (@WAGE_FEGC) December 2, 2021
When you come to think of it, rarely do people speak about things that are not directly affecting them, and that is exactly the case with human trafficking. Furthermore, the “hidden” nature that human trafficking happens in makes it that more difficult to notice and speak about.
It is even reported that the statistics currently being gathered might actually be an underestimate of the severity of the situation the world is facing when it comes to human trafficking. Nevertheless, human trafficking is still considered to be the third most profitable criminal activity. And in order to combat it, it is pivotal that the world of human trafficking and exploitation is uncovered and more people become aware of some of the warning signs.
Human trafficking is, in short, exploiting and forcing individuals into labor or sexual activity by using fraud or threats. In addition to trafficking adults and children to sell their bodies for sex or force them into labor work, some are also forced into organ trade.
Victims of human trafficking are usually lured in by the promise of a better life somewhere else. One well-known example is how traffickers bring in women to Europe with the promise of success and wealth, when in reality they will be coerced to sell their bodies and have their basic rights violated. If we look close enough, we can find that millions of people can be victims of such inhuman violations.
In Italy, a gang was arrested for trafficking women from Nigeria into Italy and forcing them into prostitution and begging for money on the streets. Just like with most human trafficking cases, these women were promised great things, but instead were subject to violence and psychological abuse before exploiting them.
But women are not the only ones being exploited, because men and boys are vulnerable to such crimes as well. According to a documentary filmed in Pakistan, boys were subjected to sexual exploitation by older men. Hostel owners trick homeless boys into believing they will get food and a place to stay, however, the reality is that they are given to truck drivers to do as they please for a certain amount of money.
What is even more astonishing is the fact that these pedophiles seem to have nothing to fear as close to no one is willing to put an end to this sexual and inhuman abuse of young boys.
One of the reasons these innocent boys are enduring severe injustice and a human rights violation is that people would rather turn a blind eye than admit the harsh and ugly reality we live in. Words like prostitution and sex work are the kind of words many tend to steer clear of to avoid shame and disgrace.
The reality of things is that the world of prostitution entails a wide regime that many are unaware of. One book, Please, Let Me Go by Caitlin Spencer, sheds light on what it means to fall into the hands of sex traffickers. In this book, Caitlin explains how she was sexually exploited and the unsettling acts that she had to endure when she was only 14 years old.
If you read this book, you will come to learn that victims of sex trafficking do not look or act a certain way. Caitlin lived in her house, went to school and potentially looked like a normal teenager, but the horrific reality is that she was abused, exploited and sold right under the nose of everyone around her.
This book explores the unsettling reality of the world we live in and how abusers can get away so easily. The story of Caitlin is but only one from thousands of others, in which kids are sexually abuse, forced into prostitution and sold.
While one end of the spectrum speaks about people being coerced and tricked in prostitution, sexual exploitation and labor, there are also kids who are forced and even sold into early marriage. According to the UN, around 12M underage girls are married each year. At this rate, it is expected that about 10M more girls will be forced into marrying early in the next decade if nothing is done to put an end to early marriage.
Studies also show that girls who are forced to marry young have a higher chance of being abused and experiencing isolation. Moreover, many girls are left to support their children after their marriages fall apart, and thus forcing them into prostitution to survive.
Despite the fact that early marriage is more prevalent among girls than it is among boys, it is reported that around 115M boys were married under the age of 18. These numbers are alarming and raising red flags that have to be seen and acted upon.
"I gave birth the same year but the man, who was 10 years older, started going out with other women. When I confronted him, he left me and the baby. Sex work was the only option I had to care for the baby and myself." - Joyce Masamba from Malawi
Looking at numbers, hearing stories and reading books about human trafficking and prostitution should help us shift our focus on what really matters; which is raising awareness and educating people about potential warning signs. In addition, it is also important that more vulnerable groups become aware of what human trafficking looks like and stay alert.
No one should have to live on high alert, but as long as human trafficking is devastating the lives of millions across the globe, we have to be on the look out. Nevertheless, it is also instrumental to keep learning about initiatives that aim to help put an end to early marriages and human trafficking. For instance, the UN aims to end early child marriage by 2030 and protect the rights of vulnerable girls worldwide. When it comes to issues like early marriage, prostitution and human trafficking, prevention is much more viable than reaction.
Unfortunately, writing about the thousands of human trafficking stories will require years, and these stories are only the tip of the iceberg. There are stories that never make it to the news, and ones that are not even reported to begin with. Therefore, it is on each one of us to shed light on the horrendous crimes of human trafficking and work on creating helplines and escape plans for victims.
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