New Data on Human Trafficking Paints a Disturbing PictureJanuary 11, 2017
“As leaders in the global undertaking to end the exploitation of human beings for profit, we must always remember that our freedom is bound to the freedom of others. This month, let us find inspiration in America’s progress toward justice, opportunity, and prosperity for all and reaffirm our pledge to continue fighting for human rights around the world.”
— President Barack Obama
During Human Trafficking Awareness Month in January, and throughout the year, AAUW and other organizations work on grassroots efforts to highlight and support legislation on this national and international crisis, including activities in Ohio, New Jersey, and Virginia. Some activism comes in the form of new information, as is the case with AAUW grant recipients Laura Dean and Maria Cecilia Hwang, who conduct scholarly research. AAUW members also implement community programs aimed at magnifying awareness of this growing problem. Human trafficking is also one of the national priorities included in our member-voted Public Policy Program.
Last month the UN Office on Drugs and Crime released the 2016 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, focusing on data collection for the 2012–14 time period and drawn from the patterns and trends of trafficking in persons from official national criminal justice sources. The Global Report is currently the only international source of information on victims of trafficking in persons, detailed by age, sex, and form of exploitation in the 136 countries surveyed in the report.
At the report launch His Excellency Peter Thomson, the president of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly, announced that three of the sustainable development goals, or SDGs, in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda would call for actions to end trafficking. These SDGs highlight the need for measures against human trafficking and advocate for the elimination of all forms of violence against and exploitation of women and girls.
Despite the inclusion of antitrafficking and antiviolence SDGs, the report offers new and troubling developments. The data show that the unprecedented and massive movement of refugees and migrants has intensified since 2014, and that this shift involves numbers of vulnerable women, men, and children who can be easily exploited by smugglers and traffickers.
Other findings from the report include the following:
- Women and girls make up 71 percent of human trafficking victims, and women and children make up 79 percent of all detected trafficking victims;
- Human trafficking takes place almost everywhere: As of the publication of this report, more than 500 different trafficking flows or patterns had been identified that include victims of 137 different citizenships in western and southern Europe;
- Sexual exploitation and forced labor are the most prominent types of trafficking. However, trafficking can involve many other forms of exploitation, such as false marriages, benefit fraud, organ removal, production of pornography, and the practice of begging;
- As of 2016, 158 countries have criminalized most forms of trafficking as set out in the UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol. Though the average number of convictions for trafficking crimes remains low, the significant increase in countries adhering to the United Nations’ protocol has aided victims and helped prosecute traffickers. The number of countries adopting the Protocol increased from 33 in 2003 (18 percent of the world’s countries) to 158 in 2016 (88 percent).
The report also confirms that an increase in instability due to conflict makes certain populations more vulnerable to trafficking; that traffickers are often of the same nationality as their victims, which could lead victims to be more trusting of potential traffickers; and that women are commonly involved in the trafficking of women and girls, as confirmed by data gathered from court cases.
Human trafficking in any form is one of the greatest human rights violations in today’s world. The valuable data collected in this report can assist countries in identifying the scope of human trafficking, determining the allocation of resources devoted to identifying and assisting trafficking victims, and improving criminal justice efforts to detect, investigate, and effectively prosecute traffickers.
Seeking more information? Want to become involved? Here are some ways you can begin:
- Review AAUW’s public policy resources and Quick Facts about human trafficking;
- Join upcoming state and local activities, including Ohio, New Jersey, and Virginia;
- Join The Younger Women’s Task Force, a movement by and for younger women fighting for social justice;
- Listen to the December 2016 AAUW ¡Adelante! Book of the Month Club discussion featuring Sarah Deer’s book The Beginning and End of Rape. Deer provides a clear historical overview of rape and sex trafficking in North America, paying particular attention to the gendered legacy of colonialism in tribal nations.
Find out more about AAUW’s position on human trafficking and learn how to help stop it.
Learn more about the sustainable development goals adopted by the members of the United Nations and how they can bring about positive change.
Read more about what the UN is doing — and helping us all do — to end violence against women and girls.