The World Day against Trafficking in Persons is held every year because human trafficking is a thriving criminal enterprise that is expanding at an alarming rate. Millions of women, men, and children end up in the hands of traffickers worldwide, and exploited in prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation, slavery or practices similar to slavery, bondage, labor, or their organs removed and sold.
The theme for this year’s World Day against Trafficking in Persons is “responding to the trafficking of children and young people.”
Trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation is the most common form of human trafficking. It is one of the fastest-growing organized crimes in the world. Traffickers, pimps, and brothel owners benefit from the sale of women and girls, and net profits of over $99 billion each year globally. It is gendered; an overwhelming majority of victims of human trafficking are female. 96% of victims of sex trafficking are women and girls.
Women and Girls are Not Criminals
“Victims, especially adult women in prostitution, are often prejudged as being responsible for their situation, that they have “chosen” to sell their bodies. This results in moral approaches being employed to “rescue them”, and ensuring that they become “responsible” individuals. We must consider the socio-economic factors that lead to men buying sex, and women and girls socio-economic vulnerabilities. They are not criminals but victims who require protection and support.” Tsitsi Matekaire – Program Manager, End Sex Trafficking
Almost a third of trafficking victims are children, according to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and 20% of all trafficking victims are girls. The demand for younger and younger victims in the prostitution industry means that more girls are becoming victims of sex trafficking.
Protecting young people from trafficking is an important priority and they must be protected throughout their lives. There are greater efforts by governments worldwide to address the impact of sex trafficking and prostitution on children. However, despite this, there is little acknowledgment that prostituted adults were often forced or coerced into prostitution through trafficking and other means as children or of the particular vulnerabilities of adolescent girls as they fall through protection gaps in policies that focus on children. Governments must take a life stage approach and ensure that laws and policies need to protect both women and children from sex trafficking.
Our Work in Malawi and Kenya
Equality Now is working with partners across the world including Malawi and Kenya, to advocate for enactment and implementation of strong laws that protect women and girls and punish perpetrators. We are advocating for a holistic and comprehensive strategy that includes both efforts to eliminate gender inequality and discrimination and to curb the demand for paid sex. In addition to laws that punish traffickers, pimps and buyers, we call on governments to address gender inequality and create greater possibilities for non-exploitative options for girls and women.
We also call on governments to ensure that women and girls exploited in the sex trade are not treated as criminals but instead ensure that they receive adequate and appropriate protection and support.
Human trafficking for sexual exploitation is not confined to specific countries or geographical borders. A country can either be a human trafficking source, transit, or destination, or sometimes encompass all the three, like in the case of Malawi which is a source, transit and destination country for trafficking for sexual exploitation from within the country and from other countries.
Traffickers capitalize on the vulnerabilities created by permeable borders, unemployment, illiteracy, poverty and generally a lack of economic opportunities to exploit young girls and women in Malawi.
We believe that effective movements must originate from the ‘experts’ who are women at the frontlines, and who understand the realities in their part of the world.
We have listened to women survivors of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation in the context of tourism industry in Kenya and believe that they have the solutions required in law, policy, and society.
Kenya is one of the countries with growing sex tourism occurring in the context of a booming tourism industry and increased foreign investment which contributes to greater movement of people, sex buyers included. For instance, along the coastline, the beach resorts, historical monuments, and other natural resources are major attractions and attract high numbers of tourists and travelers. It is also rife in other inland areas in the rift valley with its natural attraction.
Governments must enact and implement effective laws that penalize and target the demand that fuels sex trafficking, alongside those who profit from this illegal trade.
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