5 Things you didn’t know about human trafficking

Fake promises, offers of a new “job” abroad and the abuse of someone’s trust. Transporting a man, woman or child across borders, far from their home and pushing them into a life of slavery or even death… This is the reality of human trafficking today.

The Global Slavery Index’s latest statistics estimate that there are 45.8 million people worldwide living in slavery. Trafficking people for the purposes of human slavery is clearly a gross violation of their human rights. Sexual exploitation, forced labour, organ harvesting, forced begging, child soldiers, forced marriage, illegal adoption, benefit fraud and even pornography – these are the abuses which lie behind human trafficking.

Core human rights legislation including The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, which falls under The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, calls upon nations to criminalise and fight human trafficking. Today, 88% of countries worldwide have done so, according to the definition outlined in the UN protocol (UNODC, 2016). Yet despite national, regional and global efforts, human trafficking is a daily heartbreaking reality for millions of people worldwide.

So, who are the victims? How old are they? What work are they forced into and by whom? Well here’s 5 key trends in human trafficking, based on figures from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) (2016) Global Report on Trafficking in Persons to give you the lowdown on human trafficking at it stands today.

Human trafficking: 5 Key trends

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1. If you’re female you’re (still) more likely to be trafficked

Women and girls are more than twice as likely to be trafficked than their male peers. Women and girls account for 71% of (detected) victims of human trafficking worldwide. At 51%, women are still the biggest victims of human trafficking, with sexual exploitation the most widespread cause. The only exceptions are in South Asia with adult forced labour, Sub-Saharan Africa with boys forced into child labour and North Africa where women remain the biggest victims but are primarily subjected to forced labour. On top of this, domestic servitude (cooking, cleaning etc.) – another factor behind human trafficking – also predominantly affects women.

2. Forced labour is on the rise

The gender gap is narrowing. In fact, the number of men being trafficked – specifically for the purposes of forced labour – is on the rise. Whilst only around a fifth of victims of human trafficking are adult men, if we look at the rate of trafficking for the purposes of forced labour: 40% of human trafficking victims from the period 2007 – 2017 were subjected to forced labour and two thirds of these were men. In fact, trafficking for the purposes of forced labour is so widespread, it’s second only to sexual exploitation.

3. Child victims are increasing

Children worldwide are being trafficked for forced labour, use as child soldiers, begging and sexual exploitation. Over a quarter of trafficking victims are children, with numbers ranging greatly depending on country of origin and gender (20% girls, 8% boys) (2014). As a child you’re mostly likely to be trafficked to Central America and the Caribbean where here, rather shockingly almost two out of every three detected victims are under the age of 18 (2014).

4. Domestic trafficking is becoming more common

Whilst most trafficking involves crossing international borders, this is by no means defines human trafficking. As a victim of human trafficking, you could be moved from one town to another inside your own country. In fact, the sad reality is that now trafficking within the same country is also on the rise. Recent figures (2012-2014) show that 42% of cases of human trafficking were domestic – that’s almost half!

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5. Female traffickers are growing in number

Whilst six out of every ten traffickers are male and most people convicted for trafficking are in fact male (63%), the number of women involved is increasing. What’s more, if we compare the number of women involved within human trafficking to those with other crimes, the number is sadly relatively high (2014). Imagine women exploiting their own gender for money, despite the horrors that lie ahead…

Clearly, human trafficking is a heart-breaking complex issue but the old-age common idea that human trafficking simply constitutes criminal gangs transporting women across Europe for sexual purposes is an outdated reality. Movements are changing, age groups are changing and so are the numbers. It’s crucial we follow these key trends to understand the wheres, “whys”, hows and whos to raise awareness of this terrible crime, lobby governments, spot the signs within our communities and say “no” to human trafficking and “yes” to equality and freedom.

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10 Trends which reveal the reality behind gender inequality

You’ve no doubt heard about gender inequality but you may not be aware of the reality that women across the world face. What does “gender inequality” actually mean in real terms? Perhaps you may feel that in your part of the world it’s not an issue. Well, I beg to differ. Statistically speaking, women are more likely to be affected by a range of discrimination and abuse than their male peers due to their gender and the relationship between poverty and prevailing socio-cultural norms. Now, everything has a context and therefore social, cultural and economic factors must be taken into account but by being female – across the so-called “developed” and non-developing world, there are a range of trends that stick and which are unacceptable in the 21st century.

Here’s 10 trends which highlight and exemplify the shocking reality of gender inequality today.

1. Women are the hardest hit by poverty

Women are overall disproportionately affected by poverty. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), out of the 1.3 billion people worldwide living in extreme poverty, women account for a disproportionately large amount of this figure. But what about in the “developed world”? What about mainstream society? Well, the UN’s research “The World’s Women” in 2015 concluded that in Europe women and girls were greater affected by poverty than men (53%).

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2. More girls leave school early and become illiterate than their male peers

Without an education, you’re more likely to remain trapped in the cycle of poverty and without a doubt, women and girls are the worst affected. Due to a combination of social, cultural and economic factors such as poverty and child marriage, many girls leave school much earlier than is required leaving them unable to gain a solid education and build their future.

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3. Females are more likely to experience sexual violence

We need to break the myth that sexual violence only affects women and girls. It DOES affect men but to a far lesser degree. Many women (as well as men) will also not report or speak out about sexual violence for fear of retribution of social stigma, but the figures we do have are shocking.

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4. Women are excluded from habitually male-led decision making

We’ve all heard of the glass ceiling and it’s real. The lack of females in politics and high management positions is shocking as this ultimately means that women are excluded from decision making, meaning that half of the population remain under-represented in politics, finance etc. – you name it!

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5. Women earn less than their male colleagues for the same job

Not only are women more likely than men to work in undervalued, low-paid or vulnerable jobs but women are also on average paid less than men (ILO, 2012; UN Women, 2017). According to the World Bank, in most countries across the globe, women on average earn only 60-75% of what men do. This is a staggering phenomena in the “Western world” which many find hard to believe.

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6. Being female means you’re more likely to be sold into slavery

Human trafficking is a serious problem across the globe. Most victims of human trafficking are female and the numbers of girls being trafficked is increasing. Human trafficking of women and girls often involves sexual exploitation and is unimaginably detrimental to the psychological, emotional, physical, sexual, social, cultural and economical wellbeing of those affected.

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7. Women are more likely to die from natural hazards

When natural disaster strikes, women are once again at greater risk of harm. Women living in poverty (as usual!) are more likely to be affected than their male counterparts and remain incredibly vulnerable.

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8. Girls are more likely to be affected by HIV and AIDS than their male peers

51% of adults living with HIV are female (UNAIDS, 2015). What’s more, if we break down the figures by age, we find that young girls and women (aged 15 to 24 years old) are particularly vulnerable to infection (UNAIDS 2015; UN Women 2017). New infections amongst young women are higher than that of their male peers and with 45% of teenage girls in certain cases declaring that their first sexual experience was non-consensual, this may not come as a surprise for many people out there (UNAIDS, 2014).

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9. Women spend more time on unpaid housework and less on leisure than men

We may think this is a stereotype but it’s true. Across the world, in pretty much every country, each day men spend more time on leisure activities while women spend more time doing unpaid housework (OECD, 2017). Women take on the major burden of domestic and care work – even when they have a job of their own.

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10. Being born female means you’re more likely to be married as a child

Child marriage predominantly affects girls. Whilst boys can be affected, the numbers show that this is a far less common occurrence. Child marriage results in high numbers of young girls missing out on an education, financial independence and being subject to sexual, emotional and physical abuse. For girls of such a young age, childbirth can even mean death, as their young bodies cannot bear the physical burden.

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So there we are folks. The figures speak for themselves. Please, please – next time you hear someone harping on about “feminism” this and that as though it’s a man-hating phenomena, remind them of these facts. We must keep raising awareness and challenging socio-cultural norms which discriminate against women and perpetuate the marginalisation, exclusion and abuse of so many women – both closer to home and further afield.

Sources, credits and further information

A full list of sources can be downloaded here (PDF)

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