The best way to describe human trafficking:
“Stolen people, stolen dreams.”

Human trafficking is a multi-million dollar industry next only to drugs and illegal arms. In 2019, 21 million people were trapped in modern slavery. COVID-19 and the immigrant crisis all over the world have worsened this. It is estimated to be a 150 million-dollar enterprise, much more than the GDP of some countries. Its alarming growth has put immense pressure on governments and international organizations to assess the measures taken and double efforts to combat this social evil.

January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month. This month is dedicated to raising awareness about human trafficking and ways to support trafficking survivors.

With increasing disparities in income and socio-economic status throughout the world, organ trafficking has seen a considerable spike. It is one of the major causes of human trafficking. Women are now trafficked for wombs and eggs. Children are trafficked for forced labor and made to work in unhygienic conditions. Trafficking for prostitution is still lucrative. These issues are faced by both poor and rich nations from the USA to Somalia. No segment of the population or age group has been left untouched.

Now the question arises that despite knowing the enormity of this evil, human trafficking is still growing by leaps and bounds. The current strategy to combat it by arresting traffickers, giving victims services, and raising awareness is not producing the desired results. So let us analyze where we are faltering and what needs to be done.

Firstly, intelligence needs to be strengthened. Identifying and profiling traffickers should be done. A database must be created with the help of artificial intelligence (AI). This information then must be shared by all concerned departments and organizations both nationally and internationally.

Secondly, a functional justice delivery system is required. Identification must lead to punishment to see its logical conclusion. A low rate of prosecution leads to low morale in the police force.

Thirdly, governments must have a budgetary allocation for human trafficking. They must come up with strict laws related to this. Recent studies have indicated that pornography is the main cause which leads to sex trafficking. Lawmakers must make laws to deter it.

Fourthly, the role of civil society is the most important of all. Teaching youngsters to be socially responsible and have empathy for others is required. We, as responsible citizens of this global world, ‘need to be the eyes and ears’. All we need to do is speak up. The traffickers’ biggest weapon is the silence of victims and the silence of society. It is the feeling of shame that forbids the victim from breaking this cycle. We need to stop these stigmatizations of victims.

Lastly, the role of the media. The mainstream media is not interested in these ‘sob stories simply because these stories don’t have any viewership. But we should not forget that these are the stories of survivors. To bring change, we need to change our language, attitude, and perspective toward the victims.

This is a fight against a well-organized criminal syndicate having money power, muscle power, and operating internationally. Traffickers are using technology and covert ways to conduct this crime. Only the convergent efforts of the police, courts, and social services can tackle it. It needs to be addressed in an organized manner. We as people have allowed its existence. So, now it is our responsibility to stop this evil.

Nidhi Raj is a homemaker, storyteller, and mother with a keen interest in women’s issues and international relations