Acton Institute Powerblog

5 facts about human trafficking

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January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, a time when “we resolve to shine a light on every dark corner where human trafficking still threatens the basic rights and freedoms of others.”

Here are five facts you should know about modern-day slavery:

FBI.gov (Public Domain)

1. Human trafficking, also referred to as trafficking in persons or modern slavery, describes the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. There are more slaves today than were seized from Africa in four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. In fact, there are more slaves in the world today than at any other point in human history, with an estimated 21 million in bondage across the globe.

2. For most of human history slaves were expensive, the average cost being around the equivalent of $40,000. Today, the average slave costs around $90. A 2003 study in the Netherlands found that, on average, a single sex slave earned her pimp at least $250,000 a year. Trafficking in persons is estimated to be one of the top-grossing criminal industries in the world (behind illegal drugs and arms trafficking), with traffickers profiting an estimated $32 billion every year.

3. Human trafficking disproportionately affects communities of color. Including here in the United States, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that over 77 percent of trafficking victims in the United States are people of color. According to a report by the FBI, confirmed sex trafficking victims were more likely to be white (26 percent) or black (40 percent), compared to labor trafficking victims, who were more likely to be Hispanic (63 percent) or Asian (17 percent). Four-fifths of victims in confirmed sex trafficking incidents were identified as U.S. citizens (83 percent), while most confirmed labor trafficking victims were identified as undocumented aliens (67 percent) or qualified aliens (28 percent).

4. Traffic of children in Asia assumes a more significant proportion of overall trafficking than in other regions of the world. Younger children are found in the sex industry as customers seek to avoid AIDS, and much Asian sex tourism features children and minors of both sexes. In India, children are maimed to be more effective beggars. In China, babies are trafficked for adoptions abroad, with boys commanding more than girls. In Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and the Philippines, children are trafficked as child soldiers.

5. Most trafficking in teens is for sex slavery. The average age a teen enters the sex trade in the U.S. is 12 to 14-year-old. According to Shared Hope International, children exploited through prostitution report they typically are given a quota by their trafficker/pimp of 10 to 15 buyers per night, though some service providers report girls having been sold to as many as 45 buyers in a night at peak demand times, such as during a sports event or convention. Utilizing a conservative estimate, a domestic minor sex trafficking victim who is rented for sex acts with five different men per night, for five nights per week, for an average of five years, would be raped by 6,000 buyers during the course of her victimization through prostitution.

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

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