International awareness days and weeks are times during the year to educate the public about issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address local and international problems, and to celebrate global achievements. While international days of awareness came before the establishment of the United Nations, the United Nations has embraced these awareness days as a powerful tool for advocacy. The World Day Against Trafficking in Persons was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution A/RES/68/192 and takes place on July 30 of each year.
It is important to understand what Trafficking in Persons means and the effect it has on those who are caught in this grave violation of human rights. Recently, I viewed This Is Life with Lisa Ling, an episode in which she explored sex trafficking and massage parlors. Check it out here: The Secret World of Massage Parlors – IMDb.
What is Trafficking in Persons?
According to the Blue Heart Campaign which is supported by the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC), the color blue and image of the heart are used to represent the sadness of those who are trafficked, while reminding us of the cold-heartedness of those who buy and sell fellow human beings.
Trafficking in persons is a serious crime and a violation of basic human rights. According to the United Nations, every year thousands of men, women and children fall victim to and are taken advantage of by traffickers, in their own countries and abroad. Almost every country in the world is affected by trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims.
The Effect of COVID-19 on Human Trafficking
The global COVID-19 pandemic has moved everyday life from public view to online platforms. Technology has increased with the pandemic, and simultaneously, so too has the crime of human trafficking in cyber space. Internet platforms give human traffickers tools they need to recruit, exploit and control their victims, including transport and accommodations, advertisements for unsuspecting victims, and the ability to reach out to potential clients. This platform has also allowed for better and cryptic communication among perpetrators and to hide criminal proceeds with greater speed, cost-effectiveness and anonymity.
Technology, however, offers the opportunity to improve the ability to catch human traffickers. Law enforcement can leverage technology to aid in investigations to find and identify trafficking networks. This technology also allows prosecutors the ability to use digital evidence, such as in the case of child sex trafficking, during criminal proceedings.
Awareness, and the ability to call attention to human trafficking, are key. Prevention and awareness of human trafficking may help reduce the risk of people falling victim to human trafficking online. Cooperation with the private sector is also important to increase innovation and expertise of the development of sustainable, technology-based solutions to support the prevention and combat human trafficking.
World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on July 30 is supported by the blue awareness ribbon. Wearing a blue awareness ribbon demonstrates to others that you care about your fellow human beings. There are many ways to demonstrate awareness, and to get involved in World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. Examples include sharing social media posts about your opposition to this human rights violation, being vigilant online and reporting suspicious pages or activities to authorities by dedicated online mechanisms or hotlines or supporting a cause that gives assistance and protection to victims of human trafficking.
A few Important Statistics to Know:
In 2018, about fifty thousand human trafficking victims were detected and reported by 148 countries; Fifty percent of detected victims were trafficked for sexual exploitation, Thirty-eight percent were exploited for forced labor; Female victims continue to be the primary targets. Women make up forty-six percent and girls nineteen percent of all victims of trafficking; Globally, one in every three victims detected is a child. Think about that! The share of children among detected trafficking victims has tripled, while the share of boys has increased five times over the past fifteen years.
We see examples of human trafficking right before our eyes. Recently, 53 migrants died in a U.S. border smuggling attempt. The suspected driver was charged with human trafficking offenses.
Be Aware. Wear your blue ribbon and raise awareness about human trafficking today. Know that human traffickers have become skillful at using internet platforms, social media channels, online marketplace sites, and free-standing webpages to recruit victims and attract clients. Protect yourself and your loved ones against human trafficking by being aware and raising awareness.