Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery doesn’t exist in a silo. There are many things that can impact somebody’s vulnerability which can lead to a greater risk of enslavement. Anything that puts someone at a disadvantage that someone else can exploit is a danger that can impact people that may be vulnerable. Political instability, poverty, racism and the legacy of colonialism, gender identities and inequality, addiction and mental illness issues, and lack of educational opportunities can all make someone more vulnerable to a trafficker.
Across the world, it’s estimated that nearly 70% of trafficking victims are women and girls. We already can see how gender is disproportionately represented in these numbers. Because of the lesser-valued status of girls and women in most countries, this can increase their risk of abuse and exploitation.
Gender based violence is an important driver of human trafficking and a tool to manipulate and control women and children. Gender based violence and human trafficking share several factors that make women vulnerable: gender discrimination, poverty, natural disasters, conflict, and poor education and health infrastructure.
In countries where there is a large gender inequality and poverty rates are high, Gender based violence can lead to abuse and isolation of women and girls and increase their vulnerability to being trafficked.
The connection between GBV and Trafficking can be weakened by addressing structural gender inequalities to lessen women’s vulnerability, reduce community stigma towards survivors, and increase the effectiveness of survivor's successfully reentering society.
Poverty. Climate Change. Deforestation. Political Unrest. Lack of Educational Opportunities. Offers of a New Job. Migration.
There could be any number of reasons why someone may move or be forced to move to a new area, most of which can leave a person vulnerable to being exploited. Immigrants and migrants that are not knowledgeable about culture and customs can easily be manipulated into believing they will be in trouble if they go for help. Some may not know the language of the location they are in which would make it extremely difficult to navigate through society. Traffickers will force their victims to believe they have no other choice than to stay.
Increasing extreme weather disasters and the climate crisis has already had a devastating effect on livelihoods across the globe. A paper published in 2010 predicted that there may be as many as 250 million “climate refugees” by 2050. The increasing number of people being forced to move away from their current homes may find themselves desperate for security and work, which increases the probability of human trafficking.
There are arguments that the current U.S. policies create major barriers that leave migrants in a much more vulnerable position to trafficking if they seek employment. Also that aggressive immigration enforcement creates a fear of leaving their employer in fear that they will be deported.
Historically, many jobs held by enslaved African Americans during chattel slavery, such as domestic work, have been purposefully left out of most of the nation’s major labor protections. There is also data to be found that suggests industries with high rates of labor violations and limited protections, like agricultural workers, have high rates of human trafficking.
Businesses and Corporations have a large part to play in eradicating modern-day slavery but are in a constant pursuit of cheaper labor and higher profits. Calling for large companies to audit their supply chains and provide disclosures on sourcing is one of the most important things consumers can do to make an impact.
There needs to be a greater focus on protecting labor rights and ensuring decent working conditions to reduce vulnerability against human trafficking. That means including domestic work, agriculture, fishing, and entertainment under the full protection of labor laws.
Structural and institutionalized racism has fueled policies that stunted the economic opportunity and upward mobility of people of color in the United States for generations. Historically, Black and Brown people have always been faced with the systemic vulnerability against slavery. Black and Brown bodies were (and are still) viewed to be inferior which creates a system that allows for this continued abuse and exploitation against people of color to be accepted.
The hyper-sexuality of young women of color has also deeply affected the way the law responds to crimes against their bodies. A 2017 study by Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality found that adults view Black girls as less innocent and more adult-like than their white peers. Black girls are also viewed as in need of less nurturing, less protection, less comfort and are more independent and know more about adult topics like sex. These attitudes and stereotypes make them more vulnerable to trafficking and less likely to be identified or seen as victims. Data can be found across the country of a large majority of “solicitation” arrests are of young women of color where they only make a small demographic of the entire population. According to Right4Girls, “Black children account for 57% of all juvenile prostitution arrests - more than any other racial group.”
Access to equal economic protections and expanded social services and safety nets, such as education and training opportunities, healthy food, and safe homes can make a massive difference in bringing down the systems that victimize Black, Latino, and Indigenous communities.
August 26th is Women's Equality Day in the United States. This year, support an anti-trafficking organization founded by a brave and dynamic woman.
Here are five recommendations by human trafficking survivors to the United States Advisory Council on Human Trafficking.