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Human Trafficking: An International Concern

The logo for World Day Against Trafficking In Persons from the United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime.

In 2013 the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution which established July 30 as the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons to “raise awareness of the situation of victims of human trafficking and for the promotion and protection of their rights.”

Human trafficking permeates through every country as they may be an origin, transit, or destination spot for those being trafficked. While anyone can be trafficked, women and girls are the most affected. The majority of people are trafficked for sexual exploitation and 35% of trafficking for forced labor are women and girls.

What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain a type of labor or sexual act. Millions of men, women, and children are trafficked every year in every and any community. Traffickers do not discriminate based on age, race, gender, or nationality and will take whoever they can. They may use violence, manipulation, or false promises (eg, well-paying jobs or romantic relationships) to lure their victims into these situations. Psychological or emotional vulnerability, economic hardship, lack of a social safety net, natural disasters, or political instability are vulnerabilities that traffickers will look for as they attempt to traffic. .

Millions of men, women, and children are trafficked every year; in 2018 alone, there were 50 000 reports of human trafficking in 148 countries. The real number is far higher, as the crime is not always reported.

Warning Signs

While human trafficking is often considered a hidden crime, sometimes the signs are right in front of us. Recognizing the signs of human trafficking is the first step in helping as the potential trafficking situation should be reported to law enforcement. Here are some red flags to be aware of:

  • Living with an employer
  • Poor living conditions
  • Conversations/answers that seem to be rehearsed
  • Signs of physical abuse
  • Submissive or fearful behavior

Do not try to rescue the person being trafficked on your own. It may not be safe for you or them, and there is no way of knowing how the trafficker will react. It is best to report the situation to law enforcement or call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 for help and resources.

Barriers to Seeking Help

Several barriers stand in the way for trafficking survivors to feel comfortable coming forward and seeking help. Because many survivors may be pulled from their home countries to unfamiliar places, language barriers are commonplace. They  may not be able to communicate with health care professionals or law enforcement. Survivors may also fear retribution from their traffickers. Retribution may be directed not just towards the individual being trafficked, but also their loved ones. Often, traffickers will hold on to official documents, such as birth certificates and identification cards, making escape from new areas difficult. A fear of being arrested or deported by law enforcement also prevents survivors from seeking assistance. Language barriers and widespread fear come together to make trafficking a hidden crime.

The World Day Against Trafficking in Persons aims to raise awareness and fight global human trafficking. Through recognition, intervention, and prevention tactics, anyone can help trafficking survivors. 

To learn more about the United Nations’ efforts to prevent human trafficking, click here


This blog was written by STM Learning’s editorial staff for educational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific medical or legal advice. For expert information on the discussed subjects, please refer to STM Learning’s publications.

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