January: National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month

Perhaps you’ve seen billboards about human trafficking, read news reports highlighting human trafficking cases, or seen a film about trafficking. January is an excellent month to learn more about human trafficking.

Human trafficking is a crime and a human rights violation. It includes both sex trafficking and labor trafficking and describes situations where force, fraud, or coercion are used to compel a victim to provide labor or services. The exception is when a person under 18 is involved in commercial sexual activity – in such cases, force, fraud or coercion are not necessary.

According to the International Labor Organization, there are 20.9 million people who are victims of forced labor, a crime which generates approximately $150 billion in profits annually. Forced labor includes both sex trafficking and labor trafficking. The ILO’s research shows that the majority of these victims are victims of labor trafficking. Women and girls represent the majority of victims, although a substantive number of men and boys are also trafficked.

U.S. policy on human trafficking relies on the three Ps framework: Prevention, Protection, and Prosecution. Sometimes a fourth P is added for Partnership, indicating the need to work collaboratively, across multiple sectors, to end trafficking. The US Department of State’s  each year publishes an Annual Trafficking in Persons Report which evaluates countries around the world (including, as of 2010, the United States). Although there are certainly critiques of the report based on its methodology, and on the ways country assessments are alleged to be shaped by US foreign policy needs, it remains one of the more comprehensive reviews of anti-human trafficking efforts.

The United States Advisory Council on Human Trafficking, comprised of survivor leader-advocates, issued a set of recommendations in October 2016 which include, among other things, more attention to education, awareness and training, as well as increased involvement of survivor voices in determining policies and best practices for responding to human trafficking.

Polaris (formerly Polaris Project) is one widely respected non-profit organization working to support survivors and end trafficking. They also manage the National Human Trafficking Hotline: (888) 373-7888. The hotline is used by victims seeking assistance, by concerned citizens submitting tips, by those who want information about trafficking, and more.8883737888

Each year January commemorates Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention. This year the Presidential Proclamation named it National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign is encouraging everyone to wear blue on January 11, National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, and “post a photo of yourself to Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #WearBlueDay.” This social media campaign is designed to raise awareness about human trafficking.

You can also do more. Here are some suggestions from the TIP office: 15 Ways You Can Help Fight Human Trafficking. If you travel, here is an interesting new initiative from the tourism industry designed to build a database of motel rooms for use by investigators to identify possible sex trafficking victims. Here are some additional suggestions from the Project to End Human Trafficking.

The Women’s and Gender Resource Center’s Director, Dr. Donna Bickford, is teaching a course on human trafficking in the Spring 2017 semester. The WGRC, in partnership with PEAC, will be screening the movie Sold in April. Watch for more information about this upcoming programming.

Written by Donna M. Bickford, Ph.D., Director, Women’s and Gender Resource Center