About Human Trafficking
At Stop Traffick Fashion, one of our biggest goals is to help you find out more about human trafficking. To do that, we’ve put together this master page with all the key information. It’s a great resource to bookmark and share with friends. (For more must have information from Stop Traffick Fashion, check out our What Is Ethical Fashion? page.)
(We’d love you’re feedback—please email us!)
• What is Human Trafficking? • How is Modern Slavery Different From Past Slavery? • Who Is Trafficked? •
• Where Does Trafficking Occur? • How Does Human Trafficking Occur? • What Industries Does Trafficking Affect? •
• How Are Human Trafficking Victims Rescued? • What Is Life Like for Survivors of Trafficking? •
• How Can We Fix the Problem? • Resources for Stopping Human Trafficking •
What is Human Trafficking?
“Human Trafficking is a crime against humanity. It involves an act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring, or receiving a person through a use of force, coercion, or other means, for the purpose of exploiting them,” according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
Human trafficking is the fastest growing form of international crime and the second largest source of income for organized crime, surpassing even the drug trade. Today an estimated 27 million men, women, and children are held as slaves. Each year, more than 2 million children are exploited in the global commercial sex trade. According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), all commercial sex with minors is human trafficking, regardless of whether force, fraud, or coercion are evident. Although the name suggests it, human trafficking doesn’t necessarily involve transporting victims. People can be trafficked on the same street they grew up on.
Human trafficking, also known as modern-day slavery, is driven by coercion and exploitation. Physical force and violence often are part of the crime, but sometimes the oppression comes through psychological or emotional manipulation, insurmountable debt, immigration or other legal threats, or blackmail.
According the U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons report, trafficking has eight major forms:
- • forced labor
• sex trafficking
• bonded labor
• debt bondage among migrant laborers
• involuntary domestic servitude
• forced child labor
• child soldiers
• child sex trafficking
Greed and money drive slavery. Human trafficking thrives because the risks for traffickers are low and the profits are high. According to the U.N., the total market value of human trafficking is over $32 billion. In 2007, slave traders made more money than Google, Nike and Starbucks combined. While more and more traffickers are being prosecuted each year, conviction rates and sentences still aren’t high enough to deter criminals. Some countries and states still don’t have effective laws to convict traffickers.
Human trafficking robs victims of choice and freedom. It takes advantage of vulnerability and leaves a lasting impact on its victims. For survivors the physical, mental, emotional, and financial scars follow them the rest of their lives. It’s a dehumanizing crime that occurs under the surface of everyday life. But it’s also a crime that can be stopped with everyday abolitionists learn what to be aware of and commit to using their abilities and interest to eradicate modern day slavery.
How is Modern Slavery Different From Past Slavery?
One striking difference between modern day and historical slavery is the quantity: There are more slaves today than in the whole 400 years of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. The increase in slavery today is driven by the increase in the world population and the growing economy in places where slavery is most prevalent.
In today’s slavery, ownership is no longer central. In the past control came primarily through ownership. Today control comes primarily through violence and intimidation. Legal documentation of ownership is not as important. Written contracts are sometimes used, but their purpose is to entrap slaves and conceal what’s really happening from the outside world.
Race isn’t a key factor in slavery today either. Bales says, “The criteria for enslavement today does not concern color, tribe, or religion; they focus on weakness, gullibility, and deprivation.”
Slavery today is an economic endeavor, driven by money rather than simple hatred, and while slavery is illegal in every country there are very few economic controls on slavery. Economic sanctions have been successful in attacking drug and weapons cartels, but haven’t been widely used in fighting human trafficking. If governments and people make slavery unprofitable, it will stop.
Because so many people are readily available and vulnerable to being enslaved, they have become a less and less valuable commodity; slave prices are lower than they have ever been. Most slaves are used heavily until they are too sick or too weak, then they’re left to fend for themselves and often die.
In the past the cost of slaves was high, the return on investment was good, and there was motivation to keep and preserve slaves. Today the cost of slaves is low, the return on investment extremely high, and there is little motivation to keep and preserve slaves. Slaves become disposable. You work your car hard, but you take care of it through routine maintenance and repairs; however, you use a printer as much as you want, and then when it no longer works properly, you throw it away and get a new one—it’s not worthwhile to invest in maintenance or repairs. Slaves used to be like cars, now they’re more like printers.
One generation of slavery isn’t better or less criminal and inhumane than another—absolutely not. Old slavery and new slavery both take away a person’s freedom and humanity, but it’s critical to understand slavery today to stop it.
Who is Trafficked?
Since human trafficking is an underground crime, it’s difficult to determine exactly how many people are affected. Experts estimate 10-30 million people are enslaved today.
Victims of human trafficking can come from any city or country in the world. Some areas like Southeast Asia are particularly vulnerable, but victims are from everywhere—from the Sudan to the suburbs. Their destinations are just as varied. No place or people is immune.
Most human trafficking victims are women and young girls, but men and boys are trafficked in significant numbers as well.
Traffickers exploit people who are looking for a better life. Since traffickers prey on the vulnerabilities of victims, people who are poor, uneducated, neglected, unemployed, victims of sexual abuse, from unstable home lives, immigrants, or refugees are particularly at risk. But other people can be exploited as well.
In every region, some groups are particularly at risk: In Southeast Asia, the daughters of poor rural families are at risk. In the U.S., foster kids, runaways, and illegal immigrants are particularly vulnerable. In many countries, unemployed men are lured into forced labor and debt bondage. In parts of Africa, young boys, particularly orphans, are trapped and trained as soldiers to fight in violent conflicts. Around the world, even those with education can be duped by promises of jobs or even love and protection.
Where Does Trafficking Occur?
Human trafficking occurs nearly everywhere. These maps give a glimpse of the scope of the problem, showing countries in which people are at the greatest risk for trafficking and from which countries people are trafficked to the United States.
One common misconception is that human trafficking only takes place in the Third World. Sadly, this isn’t true: Trafficking is common even in the United States. Our partner organization, Thistle Farms, operates in Tennessee, and the Polaris Project, a leading anti-trafficking organization, works primarily in the United States. Polaris Project’s site has a map that shows the number of calls to their hotline from each state.
The U.S. Department of State has done thorough research and evaluation about human trafficking in every country of the world. Each year, the results are published in the Trafficking in Persons Report. (Read about the 2011 report here.) The report ranks each country and gives detailed narratives of the weaknesses and risk factors of each country. It’s a great resource to find out how slavery manifests itself in each country and what’s being done to stop it.
How Does Human Trafficking Occur?
Traffickers use fraud, force, and coercion to entrap their victims. Each victim’s story is unique, but here are some common methods traffickers use to gain access to their victims and manipulate them:
- • the false promise of employment
• buying the daughters of impoverished families
• befriending runaway teens
• confiscating victims’ legal documents
• financial debt, often with exorbitant interest, dishonest bookkeeping, and a hold on multiple generations of a family
• companionship and romance, which transforms in to force and coercion
These survivor stories highlight how people fall victim to trafficking. While it’s tough to read about exploitation, understanding the causes is a big step to ending the problem.
In Disposable People, Kevin Bales tells the story of one man working as a slave in a Pakistani brick kiln: His brother-in-law had left the kiln in search of better work, as a result this man was taken captive by the owner of the kiln where the brother-in-law had worked. “I had never been to this kiln before in my life and I had never worked there; I didn’t owe this man any money … The kiln owner just said that was tough, he was holding my brother and me as ransom against my brother-in-law’s debt. At the kiln they made me work and told me that if I tried to escape they would beat me or shoot me.”
Bales also describes how victims are entrapped in charcoal production in Brazil: Recruiters, called gatos (cats), come to the abundant slums in eastern cities to find workers for charcoal batterias in the west. “They offer to provide transport of Mato Grosso, good food on site, a regular salary, tools, and free trips home to see the family.” Once the men agree, they climb on the trucks and ride across the country, enjoying the generous free meals at restaurants that the gato provides. Then once they’ve been taken deep into the wilderness, the gato lets the men out in a forest camp surrounded by armed guards and says, “You each owe me a lot of money: there is the cost of the trip, and all that food you ate, and the money I gave you for your families—so don’t even think about leaving.”
The Trafficking in Person’s report includes several survivor stories including this one about Sabine who was trafficked as a domestic worker in France: “Sabine was 23 when her parents gave her to another family as partial payment for a used car. The family who took Sabine used her as a domestic slave for three years, making her look after their seven children and hiring her out to other men for sex. They burned her with an iron and cigarettes and beat her with iron bars and sticks, took her identity papers and claimed her unemployment benefits for themselves, and chained her up in a squalid shed at night to prevent her from escaping. They threw scraps of food on the ground for her to eat, treating her worse than an animal.”
The TIP also includes this story of Josephine who was trafficked in the Democratic Republic of Congo: “The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) … attacked Josephine’s village, she and her family had too little time to flee. A group of about 80 LRA men surrounded her house. They tied up the family and shot and killed Josephine’s grandfather in front of her. They took Josephine and her three brothers into the bush. … She was forced to carry heavy loads, find food, and cook. She and other girls, some as young as 12, were forced to become LRA “wives.” Josephine was assigned to a boy who had also been kidnapped and forced to be an LRA fighter. She watched as the men forced him to kill another boy by striking him on the back of the head with a machete.”
The Polaris Project tells the story of Keisha: “After running away from her foster family at 14 due to sexual harassment, Keisha met an older man who offered to help her find her biological family. Then he forced her into commercial sex to pay him back.”
The Polaris Project also tells Mari’s story: “With four children between them and a 16-year relationship, Mari couldn’t imagine leaving Darrell. She didn’t see any viable options, even though he was physically abusive and forced her into commercial sex when money was tight.”
Nicholas Kristof describes the situation of one girl rescued in Brooklyn: “Among those rescued was Baby Face, who had run away from home in September. Her pimp allegedly found her on the street, bought food for her and told her that she was beautiful. Within a few days, he had posted her photo on Backpage and was selling her five to nine times a day, prosecutors say. When she didn’t earn enough money, he beat her with a belt, they add.”
Kristof also tells the story of a 13-year-old girl kidnapped in Cambodia and taken to a brothel in Phnom Penh then tortured with an electric current.
What Industries Does Trafficking Affect?
- • agriculture
• food processing
• garments and textiles
• catering and restaurants
• domestic work
• the sex industry
Victims of human trafficking harvest grain, work in packaging plants, and supply labor for building projects in hopes of providing for their families. They weave carpets, wait tables, staff kitchens, and clean homes and hotels in fear of deportation. They sing in bars, film porn movies, and sell their bodies to keep pimps from beating them.
The prevalence of trafficking in supply chains makes it imperative that consumers think about the ethics of their spending. You can look for fair trade labels or other certifications (like Rainforest Alliance) that help make sure slaves haven’t been involved in making a product. Free2Work is also a great resource. It grades companies on their compliance with slave-free standards. (Plus, they have an app for on-the-go ethical shopping.)
There are a growing number of advocates in these industries who are standing up for ethical treatment of workers. As a consumer, you have the power to encourage businesses to eradicate human trafficking. Neil Kearney, former President of the International Garment and Leather Workers Federation, states it this way: “If a business cannot afford to be ethical, then they cannot afford to be in business.” Consumers can help make this a reality.
How Are Human Trafficking Victims Rescued?
This is the most commonly talked of rescue. The dramatic raid: doors kicked in by police, captives set free by compassionate social workers. This work is the specialty of the International Justice Mission. These rescues are very powerful because only they can free to the most deeply enslaved, the most abused, and the youngest victims of trafficking and exploitation. Nicholas Kristof has written about brothel raids with IJM and Somaly Mam.
This is perhaps the most dangerous road to freedom. A covert run for it under the cover of night almost always brings armed captors chasing, hoping to recapture their investment. It’s even more treacherous when the police aren’t a safe haven. Trafficking survivor and abolitionist Somaly Mam ran away from the brothel where she was help captive after years of torture and abuse. She tells her story in The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine.
Much modern day slavery is debt based. Families working at brick kilns across India and Pakistan are stuck because a father or grandfather needed to borrow some money. Now, charged exorbitant interest or cheated in the paperwork, they’re trapped. In some rare cases families in this situation earn enough to buy their freedom. But not until after years of dawn-to-dusk back breaking labor for every member of the family.
Just Walk Away
Many of the women at Freeset are trafficked from Bangladesh and the Murshidabad region of West Bengal, India. Once they arrive in the red light district many are simply abandoned. They have no education, no help. So they’re trapped selling sex to pay high rent. But many can walk away—there’s no one holding them. Their enslavement has become situational. Given opportunities like work at Freeset or Sari Bari, women can leave the trade. While these women are some of the luckiest trafficking victims, just walking away is not as uncomplicated as it seems.
What Is Life Like for Survivors of Trafficking?
Life has changed for trafficking survivors. In so many ways everything is different. Life has started over again, and this time there are options and hope. But trafficking victims start this new life with a deficit. They’re often mentally, physically, and financially in need. Many lack basic skills like writing their name or using scissors and have deeper issues like building self-confidence and trusting others. They don’t have a source of income to provide for themselves and their families. Often they’re a long way from home. And if their trafficker wants them back (or wants to have the income they earned from their victim), life can be quite dangerous.
Their stories are all different—from success stories like Somaly Mam to this boy in Haiti who can’t speak and is just learning to smile again. Amidst the challenges we can’t forget hope. With the right help, survivors can make steps toward safety, freedom, education, financial stability, and health.
In the struggle and the murkiness, remember: Before these words (derived directly from their stories) characterized their lives.
Then change came: They were rescued or worked for their freedom or were abandoned by their captors, left helpless and alone but with the freedom to start again.
In their time of vulnerability, help came along. A friend, a counselor, a family member, a judge. Freeset, Hagar, IJM, 31 Bits, Magdalene House, Made by Survivors, Nomi Network, Wonderfully Made. This time no one took advantage of their poverty, their lack of education, their weakness. This time they were given a chance at a new life.
And now this is who they are:
How Can We Fix the Problem?
The problem is big (huge, even), but don’t be discouraged. Small actions make a big difference—especially when more people get involved. The news is more and more full of stories about human trafficking, but there’s more and more good news as everyday abolitionist like you get involved in putting an end to this crime.
The best way to end trafficking is to look at what you’re already good at or love doing and find a way to use it to help end human trafficking. Do you love writing? Compose blog posts, Facebook statuses, and letters to congressmen or trafficking victims. Are you a musician? Write a song or play at a benefit concert. Good with finance? Help a rescue organization or a survivor of trafficking organize and use their money. Love to bake? Host a bake sale for an organization. Love accessorizing? Shop Stop Traffick Fashion (of course!). The possibilities are endless. Never underestimate the power of your passions.
Find out what to watch for and report trafficking
Don’t try to confront the trafficker or rescue the victim yourself. This is dangerous work. If you see something that worries you, contact one of these tip lines:
- • The Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement: Call (866) 347-2423 or use the online form.
• Polaris Project: 1-888-373-7888 for help and information and to report possible instances of trafficking.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security lists warning signs and has an awareness training video. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists these indicators to look for:
- • Evidence of being controlled
• Evidence of an inability to move or leave job
• Bruises or other signs of battering
• Fear or depression
• Non-English speaking
• Recently brought to this country from Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America, Canada, Africa or India
• Lack of passport, immigration or identification documentation
Support law makers and law enforcement
IJM is a great source of information on justice in legislation. Their Facebook page and email updates will give you a heads up on items that need action. Make sure you know your state and federal senators and representatives names. A quick, easy call to your senator can help sway the law in the way of justice.
Find out what your local police are doing to fight trafficking. Support them by using local tip lines and voicing the need to make training to identify trafficking victims a priority.
Support education and opportunities for women
Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn will give you great ideas. You can tutor at-risk girls in your community or fund a microloan for a mother through World Vision or Kiva. Follow the STF blog for more ideas.
Support organizations who work with trafficking victims
(There’s an annotated list in the resources section). Here are just a few to get you started: Hagar International, the International Justice Mission, Magdalene House, and The Polaris Project. Money does help. At Hagar, $25 buys books and materials to teach one woman to read; $50 pays for intensive counseling services for one month; $100 yields one week’s care for a woman at Hagar Women’s Shelter; $250 funds school tuition for one child, for one year; and $500 pays for three months’ training program to prepare one woman for sustainable employment. New Hope Christian Ministries of Pakistan was able to purchase the freedom of a family enslaved in a brick kiln for just $200.
Be an ethical consumer
There are lots of ways to make your spending habit more ethical. Certified fair trade products hold to a system of ethics and accountability that makes sure workers are treated fairly at every stage of the production process. This way you can be sure that slaves didn’t produce the product. Plus, workers who are paid fairly aren’t entrapped by poverty—they’re able to educate and protect their families from traffickers. Free2Work is a great resource to educate yourself as a consumer. When you can’t find a fair trade option or something your confident will have a positive impact, Free2Work can help you pick the better option between two retailers. This website (there’s also an app for reference while you’re shopping) shows you which companies do not have forced, trafficked, or child labor in their production. Each company is grade based on the ethical choice the business makes. So in the absence of an A+ choice, you’ll be able to find out who got a B- and chose them over a company that got a D-. Better World Shopping Guide is a similar app you can use when you’re shopping. Rather than getting overwhelmed by choices, choose a few items that you use often, like coffee or chocolate, and commit to buy fair trade. Read this post on ethical fashion and follow the blog to get more ethical spending tips.
If you can’t find ethical shopping options, tell retailers that’s what you want. Tell the manager of your grocery store why fair trade is important and participate in Call+Response‘s Chain Store Reaction.
Tell others abut human trafficking
This is as easy as reposting news stories on your Facebook page or telling the cashier at the grocery why you’re buying fair trade coffee. The Stop Traffick Fashion blog and the CNN Freedom Project will keep you supplied with information to share. Plus, you can be part of this hopeful statistic shared by CNN: “Nearly 2,000 people have come out of slavery, either directly or indirectly, as a result of the hundreds of stories broadcast on air and published online.” It’s even easier to tell others if you become an STF Social Media Ambassador or throw an STF Home Party.
Resources for Stopping Human Trafficking
Below you’ll find some of the many, many resource available to help you learn about human trafficking and how to stop it. Pick out one or two and get started finding out how you can help change life for exploited people.
Put one or both of these numbers in your phone—you’ll never know when you’ll need them:
- • The Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement: Call (866) 347-2423 or use the online form.
• Polaris Project: 1-888-3737-888 (easy to remember!) for help and information and to report possible instances of trafficking.
- A Crime So Monstrous by Benjamin Skinner—Skinner reports on current and former slaves and dealers. He focuses on Haiti, Sudan, Romania and India, and is interspersed with a detailed account of the work of the director of the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
- Disposable People by Kevin Bales—Bales is a social researcher who examines slavery in the modern world by looking at the social and economic factors that drive it.
- Good News About Injustice by Gary A. Haugen—This book chronicles the vision behind IJM’s work and seeks to tackle tragic injustices with practical insight, answering tough questions regarding the nature of injustice and the Biblical mandate for Christians to confront it.
- Just Courage: God’s Great Expedition for the Restless Christian by Gary A. Haugen—Haugen leads us on a journey to freedom from the triviality and fear that can stifle our lives.
- Not for Sale by David Batstone—Batstone tells the story of 21st century abolitionists and their heroic campaign to put an end to human bondage. He weaves the narratives of activists and those in bondage in a way that raises awareness of the modern-day slave trade and serves as a call to action.
- The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam—Somaly’s firsthand account of her life as a sex slave in Cambodia, her escape from slavery, and her life rescuing other women. The book is available here through the Somaly Mam Foundation.
- The Slave Next Door by Ron Soodalter and Kevin Bales—Bales, sociologist, and Soodalter, a historian, document routine coercive slave labor in domestic service, prostitution, farm labor, factories, light industry, prisons and mining operations. Their case studies stretch from an American suburb to urban China, rural Ghana and back to Los Angeles, Calif., and East Orange, N.J. The second half of the book focuses on causes and solutions.
- Terrify No More by Gary A. Haugen and Gregg Hunter—This gripping book documents the events leading up to, and surrounding, IJM’s work in the notorious Cambodian village of Svay Pak, which resulted in the rescue of 37 underage victims of sex-trafficking, many of them under the age of 10.
- Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn—The oppression of women and girls in the developing world is the foremost human rights violation today, and it fuels the fires of of human trafficking. Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn share stories of injustice and hope from around the world and introduce readers to women who show us how we can transform the lives of women and girls.
- The Slave Across the Street by Teresa Flores—When Theresa Flores was 15 years old she became enslaved in sex trafficking—all the while living with her parents in an upper-middle class suburb of Detroit. Her story shows the realities of trafficking and gives an example of hope for survivors.
- Ending Slavery by Kevin Bales—In this book, Bales “recounts a personal journey in search of the solution and explains how governments and citizens can build a world without slavery.”
- Call+Response—A documentary featuring musicians that looks at human trafficking today and what individual people can do to stop it. The site also has a variety of resources like Chain Store Reaction.
- Playground—A documentary on child sex trafficking in the United States.
- Born into Brothels—A documentary by Kids With Cameras that follows the lives of children raised in Kolkata’s sex district.
- Calcutta Hilton—A documentary about the start of Freeset in Kolkata.
- Demand—”Shared Hope International investigated the commercial sex markets in Jamaica, Japan, the Netherlands and the United States – Atlanta, Las Vegas and Washington, DC – through a grant from the U.S. Department of State, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.”
- Abolish Slavery is a nonprofit organization dedicated to combating human trafficking and restoring dignity to victims. They organize and coordinate investigations and field operations to find, identify, and retrieve men, women, and children from slavery, providing for their safe aftercare and rehabilitation.
- Global Centurion focuses on removing predators from the streets, demand is decreased. Decreased demand means fewer suppliers and victims.
- Hagar International is a Christian organization that is committed to individualized, long-term assistance, using the social enterprise model as a tool for social rehabilitation and economic empowerment. Hagar works with women and children from backgrounds of violence, abuse and trafficking and supports them in their recovery, rehabilitation, job readiness and community reintegration.
- International Justice Mission is a human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. IJM lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals work with local officials to ensure immediate victim rescue and aftercare, to prosecute perpetrators and to promote functioning public justice systems.
- The Polaris Project “is a leading organization in the United States combating all forms of human trafficking and serving both U.S. citizens and foreign national victims, including men, women, and children. We use a holistic strategy, taking what we learn from our work with survivors and using it to guide the creation of long-term solutions. We strive for systemic change by advocating for stronger federal and state laws, operating the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline 1.888.3737.888, and providing services to help our clients and all victims of human trafficking.”
- Restavek Freedom Foundation works to end restavek child slavery in Haiti.
- United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
- U.S. Department of Homeland Security: Including information on identifying victims and a 5-minutes Human Trafficking Awareness Training Video
- U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. It’s important to note that ICE does not prosecute trafficking victims for immigration violations.
- The United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking