Different factors help to explain why women and girls are more vulnerable to human trafficking and slavery. Power imbalances between women and men may mean that women are vulnerable to exploitation. Sometimes, women are trafficked under the guise of being provided with a new job in another country.
Young women and children may be trafficked or forced into slavery to meet the debts of their family. Men and boys are also vulnerable to labour trafficking – though for different reasons. Often cultural expectations place sole responsibility for earning income upon men, so they bear the burden to ensure their families are provided for. The pressure and lure of increasing income in surrounding countries might force men and boys into situations where they are exploited by powerful employers.
Why we struggle to understand the magnitude of trafficking and slavery
After arms and drugs, human trafficking and slavery is the third most profitable transnational organised crime. And it's growing at an alarming rate. So why are governments, researchers and organisations struggling to fully gauge the magnitude of the problem?
Human trafficking and slavery are multi-dimensional crimes whose definitions are sometimes difficult to apply; the available statistical data varies dramatically and the crimes happen on an international scale. Little wonder that identifying the victims of human trafficking and slavery is like finding a needle in a haystack.
Here are the top 4 reasons why we are struggling to understand the magnitude of trafficking and slavery:
- It's a crime that's clandestine in nature because operators are keen to avoid the scrutiny of the law.
- It's a crime that takes many forms – and to date, most attention has been focused on the sexual exploitation of women and girls; however other major issues like forced agricultural, domestic and industrial labour still receive little attention. Data is scarce.
- Victims of these crimes are hard to identify unless they come forward, and they rarely come forward, either because they physically cannot (they are effectively 'imprisoned') or they fear reprisals, upon themselves or their families.
- The UN Protocol on Trafficking that came into force in 2003 has helped organisations work towards a more unified goal in the fight against this crime. However, the official UN definition is not always easy to apply in certain countries, making for an inconsistent approach to the problem worldwide.
To help us consolidate our understanding and continue working against trafficking and slavery, World Vision regularly refers to data collected from a range of sources, including international institutions, national governments and respected researchers in the field, such as Kevin Bales.
To find out more about the work World Vision is doing in this area, and what you can do to help, take a look at Don't Trade Lives.
This was originally published on the 13th of December 2010.