If you’re hanging around DoneGood, chances are that you’re at least a little bit familiar with the term “human trafficking.” But even if you have a vague idea that it means “modern-day slavery,” the term can still feel a little ambiguous.
Human trafficking is a complex issue which can make it difficult to define and easy to misunderstand.
But with an estimated 40 million slaves in the world today, human trafficking is an important issue. We can’t let confusion or misunderstandings get in the way of learning about and fighting against it.
So let’s dig in a little bit and define what human trafficking actually means, what it doesn’t mean, and what we can all do to help.
Human Trafficking Defined
The US Department of Justice defines human trafficking as “a crime that involves exploiting a person for labor, services, or commercial sex.”
This includes any form of:
- Forced labor
- Debt bondage
- Sex trafficking
- Involuntary domestic servitude
- Child soldiers
- Commercial sex involving a minor
Because human trafficking is a complex issue, the numbers are hard to gather, but the International Labour Organization estimates that there are approximately 40 million victims of human trafficking in the world today. About 1 in 4 of these victims are children.
Human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world, generating about $150 billion per year.
Myths about human trafficking
This heat map from Polaris shows human trafficking cases in the US in 2018.
To effectively fight against human trafficking, we need to clear up a few misunderstandings and myths about human trafficking.
Myth: Human trafficking always involves kidnapping or violent force
Fact: You can thank thriller movies for this common misconception that human trafficking always involves kidnapped victims. While this is sometimes the case, statistics show that most traffickers are more likely to start with deceit than with force.
Perpetrators often initially promise individuals employment, schooling, a chance of immigration, or marriage to lure them away from their communities, friends, and family. Once they are isolated and separated, perpetrators often threaten, manipulate, or make false promises to trick victims into providing exploitative labor or commercial sex.
Myth: All human trafficking is sex trafficking
Fact: While sex trafficking is certainly part of the problem, as we saw above, human trafficking is much broader than sex trafficking. Human trafficking also includes forced labor and debt bondage among other crimes.
A related misunderstanding is that all commercial sex is sex trafficking. These two are related, but ultimately separate issues. Commercial sex involving an adult is only human trafficking if the person is involved against their will as a result of fraud, threat, or coercion.
Myth: Human trafficking doesn’t affect me
Fact: It’s easier to think of human trafficking as happening in a country on the other side of the world, in settings we don’t know and a language we don’t understand. But human trafficking can, and does, happen everywhere.
As I shared here, human trafficking happens all around us. I have heard of three separate human trafficking cases in the past 5 years in my small, quaint college town alone. These cases happened in a hotel down the road from me, a restaurant I pass every day, and a house fewer than ten miles from my own. Human trafficking affects all of us, which means that we can all play a role in fighting it.
What we can do to fight human trafficking
Learn. Learn more about human trafficking. The more we learn and know, the more easily we can fight against human trafficking. Check out organizations like Polaris, International Justice Mission, and the International Labour Organization to learn more.
Be aware. Now that you know that human trafficking happens around you, pay attention to red flags—I share a few here. Report any suspicious activity to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-737-3888.
Spread Awareness. Talk to your friends about human trafficking and what you’re learning. As International Justice Mission Founder Gary Haugen says, “Nothing happens just because we are aware of modern-day slavery, but nothing will EVER happen until we are.”
Shop ethically. Many of the things we buy and use every day are products of modern-day slavery—made by people who are not free and are victims of forced labor. That’s why DoneGood exists! To help you find companies who provide fair pay and meaningful work for their employees.
Where does DoneGood fit in?
Free women, earning a fair income at the Elegantees sewing center in Nepal.
We want to fight modern-day slavery by making it easy for you to find everyday products that were produced by free people. All DoneGood approved brands produce their goods ethically—employing free people who are earning fair wages and benefits.
Writer, editor, and all-around language enthusiast who
uses her love of words to help others.