Protecting the Most Vulnerable: Human Trafficking
When you hear the word slavery, your first thought is probably of Africans being captured and sold into slavery in the United States and other countries centuries ago. You’re probably not even aware that an estimated 40 million people are victims of human trafficking today, and therefore, modern-day slaves. It’s unlikely that you’re thinking of a young teenage girl just out of the orphanage where she’s lived her entire life.
For most teenagers, turning 16 is a happy, momentous occasion. But instead of celebrating, she found herself led out of the orphanage gates with a small sack of clothing and no preparation for life outside. She took refuge on a park bench to consider her options and knew that she could only hope for a job in manual labor with no resources and minimal education. So when a woman approached her and told her about a possible job, she jumped at the chance.
That job she was promised doesn’t exist. Instead, she’s forced into the sex trade with no way out. Her captors control her entire life, and any attempts to escape will be met with severe consequences, including physical beatings and food deprivation.
The Pandemic Exposes More People to Human Traffickers
While we feel compassion for the victims, we rarely think of it as something that could happen to us or those we love. However, because human traffickers prey on vulnerable people, any situation that puts people in a weak position, such as the pandemic, subjects them to the possibility of becoming a human trafficking victim.
With the pandemic expected to drive at least 70 million people into extreme poverty, desperate workers will be more likely to accept risky job offers or high-interest loans to feed their families, only to end up trapped in exploitative situations. In addition, businesses anxious to ramp up production after months of lost income may be more willing to hire the cheapest labor available, skip labor inspections, and other oversight measures—thereby enabling human traffickers to thrive.
Children are also at risk of forced labor due to their families’ economic stress and vulnerability. It’s predicted the pandemic will contribute to 13 million more child marriages globally (a form of modern slavery), with families forcing adolescent girls to marry early as an economic safety net.
Human Trafficking Is Big Business
Human trafficking, modern slavery, forced labor—however you want to refer to it is immoral and unethical, but it’s a growing industry. It’s estimated to rake in $150 billion annually. But, of course, just as it’s nearly impossible to assess an accurate number of victims due to its criminal nature, it’s also challenging to gain an exact number regarding profits.
Breaking the Cycle
Being a victim of human trafficking can break a person. They’re made to feel less than human and more like a commodity. They’re often tortured, either with physical punishment or forced to consume drugs. Even if they manage to escape, they lack self-confidence and have limited or no resources, so they can quickly end up in exploitative situations without a support system.
Although it seems overwhelming, there are things you can do to help the survivors of human trafficking. The Orphans Hands works to embody the words found in Psalm 82:3-4 “Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people.”
Hope and efforts to develop strong support systems to help keep survivors free from further abuse are possible. Meet some of our kids and read about their stories. There are so many ways you can help. Make a contribution or purchase our collection of clothing and books to offer direct support. Even simply sharing the message with friends, family, and associates can help.