The United Nations designated July 30 as the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons in 2013 to raise awareness and gain support for the prevention of human trafficking, implement protocols to protect victims, and to penalize traffickers.
Human trafficking is a crime that exploits women, children and men for numerous purposes including forced labor and sex. Globally countries are detecting and reporting more victims, and are convicting more traffickers. This can be the result of increased capacity to identify victims and/or an increased number of trafficked victims.
Every country in the world is affected by human trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit, or destination for victims. Traffickers the world over continue to target women and girls. The vast majority of detected victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation and 35 percent of those trafficked for forced labor are female. Conflict further exacerbates vulnerabilities, with armed groups exploiting civilians and traffickers targeting forcibly displaced people. Data also shows that trafficking happens all around us as the share of persons trafficked within their own country has doubled in recent years to 58 percent of all detected victims, according to the 2018 UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons.
As we commemorate the 7th World Day Against Trafficking in Persons amidst the COVID-19 pandemic we are especially concerned about how children are now more vulnerable today to online exploitation. Globally, school closures have not only impeded children’s access to education but also to a safe environment. Children confined to a home with abusive relatives may become victims of live-stream sex abuse and other forms of cybersex trafficking.
Perpetrators are taking advantage of children spending more unsupervised time online. Authorities in Australia report that child predators have created and shared an online grooming manual describing ways to manipulate and exploit the increased number of children at home and online during Covid-19.
With the global economic downturn, children are forced onto the streets in search of basics like food and money, making them accessible to human traffickers and other predators. The same applies to children fleeing home because of domestic abuse, which has spiked globally during the pandemic.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in the United States has experienced a 106% increase in global reports of suspected child sexual exploitation to its CyberTipline compared with March 2019. The Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation reports between October 2019 and March 2020 calls increased by 123% compared with the same period the previous year.2 In India, there has been a 95% rise in traffic searching for child sexual abuse content, and Europol has also witnessed an escalation.1
The resources below may help families educate themselves on the dangers of sexual exploitation and how to stay safe online, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- UNICEF has created an online guide about COVID-19 and its implications for protecting children online which may be accessed by clicking
- The FBI’s Safe Online Surfing (SOS) program teaches students in 3rd – 8th grade about how to safely navigate the internet. The Program may be accessed by clicking
- Multiple national and international agencies collaborated on this one-page tip sheet to help parents and children understand and protect themselves from online risks.
U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking also offers two modules that may be of interest:
- Human Trafficking and Children in both English and Spanish
- Human Trafficking and Pornography in both English and Spanish
May this World Day Against Trafficking in Persons be an opportunity for us to learn, pray, and act to end human trafficking and protect children during this time of heightened vulnerability due to the pandemic!
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