2020 was a sad, frustrating year all around. The world lost one of its most beloved athletes, Kobe Bryant, mourned the passing of civil rights activist, Rep. John Lewis, and came face first with the deadly virus, COVID-19.
COVID-19 has received endless news coverage on the poor lives it has taken, suggested safety guidelines, and the impending vaccine distribution. All things we need to know. Yet, mass media has turned a blind eye to some of the other ways COVID-19 can be detrimental and life-altering. Namely, in regards to human trafficking.
Human trafficking, also known as modern slavery, is referred to as the forceful, manipulative, or coercive transportation or harboring of a person for labor or sex. It's a billion-dollar industry and one of the hardest crimes to bust due to an endless number of factors (e.g. victim-blaming and legal repercussions, fear of a trafficker, issues proving the lack of willingness, etc.).
Human trafficking is a silent crime that affects the lives of millions of men, women, and children from every country, race, and socio-economic class. However, it is a well-known fact that human trafficking victimization is more prevalent amongst women and those living in poverty. Hence, why COVID-19 might create even more problems in regards to modern slavery.
According to findings from the Pew Research Center published in September 2020, one in four adults can barely make ends meet, and almost 50% of lower-income Americans shared they've had trouble paying their bills since the COVID-19 outbreak. Of course, these things are due to job losses due to the virus.
With the lower-income rate seemingly getting higher due to the Coronavirus, this could also result in some sad consequences for those living in extreme poverty all across the globe. Reportedly from a news article by PBS, several safe houses and organizations from over 100 countries geared towards helping human trafficking victims are having a hard time providing human trafficking victims with basic services and needs during this pandemic. According to ODIHR/U.N. Women, only a small 24% of the anti-human trafficking organizations reported they would be able to remain fully operational without extra funding in the next 12 months.
Placing aside the fact that this pandemic (likely from the lack of governmental support and budget cuts) has lessened the amount of support and services they can give to human trafficking victims, it also exacerbates the demand organizations regularly see, like the number of folks that need housing; due to social distancing guidelines, some folks (even women running from abusers) have to be turned away to fulfill capacity guidelines. Sadly, around 5% of trafficking safehouses have closed down since the pandemic started.
The harshest reality many impoverished people face from COVID-19 is that their financial situation is only going to get worse. Many of the people that fall victim to human trafficking do because of the promise they get that "life will be better." Thus, it's easy to predict that there will be a rise in human trafficking cases as poverty (which makes folks more susceptible to this issue) is going up and the number of resources/services available to help are seemingly going down.
Overall, 2020 presented the world with a plethora of challenges - especially for those coming from lower-income backgrounds. Human trafficking prevalence is predictably going to heighten, however, visit sites like PolarisProject.org to keep informed and updated on human trafficking during this trying time. Use this new year, and especially the month of January (National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month), to learn and shed light on the horrors of modern slavery.
Check out my YouTube video on Human Trafficking in North Carolina for some basic facts/stats about modern slavery!
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