“It ought to concern every person, because it is a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community, because it tears at our social fabric. It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name — modern slavery.”

President Barack Obama

30 Million People

The modern-day slave trade is one of the fastest growing industries in the world, enslaving more than 30 million individuals today. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “After drug dealing, trafficking of humans is tied with arms dealing as the second-largest criminal industry in the world.” Combating this $32 billion-dollar-a-year industry takes enormous effort as well as a large framework of diligent abolitionists. Slavery is wrapped up in almost every industry’s supply chain, tainting the food we eat, the clothes we buy and the electronics we love.

$32 Billion USD All businesses have supply chains. Numerous small companies work to provide the cotton in our t-shirts, the metals in our laptops and cellphones, as well as the sugar in our desserts.  These raw materials come from all over the world. The businesses selling our t-shirts and chocolate and cell phones rarely know where these raw materials are coming from, or who is assembling the products before their final stages. This lack of transparency allows for unregulated production and many times unsafe or illegal practices in the workplace, including modern day slavery.

Vulnerable people and communities are targeted by recruiters, and traffickers and through deception, fraud and coercion are brought into slavery. While sex trafficking is often at the forefront of our awareness, slave labor and debt bondage are more common.  Sometimes entire villages with few economic opportunities are targeted as ideal laborers who do not have other options. Often they will not immediately realize that the small loan they accepted will never be paid off due to the high interest rate charged by the lender. These situations are largely contextualized by a lack of economic empowerment. Identifying these regions and people is critical to stemming the tide of human trafficking.

Awareness of human trafficking has been on the rise over the past few years and it is important to be clear with our definition of slavery. Our definition of slavery is similar to that of the CNN Freedom Project:

Slavery occurs when one person completely controls another person, using violence or the threat of violence, to maintain that control, exploits them economically and they cannot walk away.

The definition of trafficking has 3 main components:

  • The action of trafficking; which means the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons
  • The means of trafficking; which includes threat of or use of force, deception, coercion, abuse of power or position of vulnerability
  • The purpose of trafficking; which is always exploitation. In the words of the Trafficking Protocol, article 3 “exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.

More in depth definitions are available from the Trafficking of Victims Protection Act as well as the U.N. Trafficking Protocol.

Read more Frequently Asked Questions about modern-day slavery here.

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