Padmini Murthy MD, MPH Professor / Global Health Director New York Medical College School of Health Sciences and Practice & 1st Vice Chair Global NGO Executive Committee. Global Health Lead American Medical Women’s Association. 

Human trafficking is prevalent globally and can be labelled a pandemic as it affects the lives of millions of citizens around the world and here are many forms of human trafficking such as sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, forced marriage, recruitment of child soldiers to name a few.  and According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) “Trafficking of persons is a serious crime and a grave violation of human rights. “

Unfortunately, every year globally thousands of men, women and children are victims of this heinous crime, in their own countries and abroad. It is no exaggeration to state that Almost every country in the world faces socio economic effects of trafficking as countries and serve as hubs for origin, transit, or destination for victims.

Humanitarian crises which occur because of armed, conflict, natural disasters, financial hardship, and pandemics contribute to exacerbate trafficking trends. Often traffickers take advantage of vulnerable populations who have experienced socio-economic losses due to the above-mentioned factors and are unable to protect themselves and their children. 

According to figures released by the international labor organization in 2016 there were 40 .3 million people in modern day slavery and the magnitude of the problem is enormous as for every 1,000 people, 5.4 are victims of modern slavery. According to data released 1 in 4 victims of slavery are children and the figures further highlight the increased risk faced by women and girls as 71% of the victims of trafficking globally are girls and women, and 29% are boys and men. 1

The UN Trafficking Protocol- the term sex trafficking refers to individuals forced, coerced, or sold into the commercial sex trade or subjected other forms of sexual exploitation, including non-consensual marriage. They may be moved across state lines, across international borders, or not moved at all. 2

January 11 th every year is observed as National Human Trafficking Day in the United States.

July 30th every year is observed by the United Nations as World Day Against Trafficking in Persons 

Since the past few decades United Nations agencies, Governments, foundations, non-governmental organizations, private and public sectors are working together to address this global scourge of human trafficking. Often health care providers and physicians encounter victims of trafficking without being aware that the patients they have examined are in fact victims of trafficking. Often these victims of trafficking seen in medical settings are scared to disclose the cause of their physical, sexual, and mental trauma often compounded by language barriers and lack of privacy. 

Some of the initiatives are described below: 

The United States Department of Homeland Security has developed indicator cards in their blue campaign to help first responders identify victims of human trafficking and assist them. More information is available at https://www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign/indicators-human-trafficking

The American Medical Women’s Association launched an initiative in 2014 named PATH- Physicians Against Trafficking of Humans to educate health care providers against human trafficking. – More information is available at https://www.doc-path.org/

It is no exaggeration to refer to human trafficking as an all pervasive, persistent pandemic which is a violation of human rights. There is ample evidence which highlights the short and long term consequences on the victims’ health and social wellbeing and the global community needs to understand that the horrors faced by trafficked women and girls cannot be underestimated or ignored. 

Additional resources 

  1. Coalition against Trafficking in Women www.catwinternational.org
  2. ECPAT International – https://www.ecpat.org/
  3. International Labour Organization – https://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/lang–en/index.htm
  4. Polaris-  https://polarisproject.org/
  5. Stop The traffick  https://www.stopthetraffik.org/who-we-are/about-us/
  6. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Women’s Health http://www.womenshealth.gov/violence-against-women/typesof-violence/human-trafficking
  7. United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime – https://www.unodc.org/
  8. United Nations Human Rights. Office of The High Commissioner https://www.ohchr.org/EN/pages/home.aspx

References 

  1. The scale of human trafficking. STOP THE TRAFFIK. https://www.stopthetraffik.org/about-human-trafficking/the-scale-of-human-trafficking. Accessed January 16, 2021. 
  2. Weissbrodt D, Dottridge M. Abolishing Slavery, and Its Contemporary Forms. New York: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; 2002

Human Trafficking 

She thought she was on a picnic, 

Sadly, she was a victim of human traffic,

Sold as a slave,

Told constantly to behave, 

Beaten black and blue, 

Why? She has no clue, 

Her body battered, 

Her soul shattered,

Her dreams slowly die, 

She has no place to lie.

We need to speak up and say, 

Do not despair!  Help is on the way!

Written by Padmini Murthy on Human Trafficking Awareness Day Jan 11 2020

© PM