Silent Tragedy 3

February 24, 2021

According to the the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) the pandemic is fuelling slavery, trafficking and sexual exploitation worldwide. Traffickers take huge advantage of the the pandemic-induced recession to exploit the most vulnerable.

According to the “Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2020”, recently launched by the the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the covid-pandemic is fuelling slavery, trafficking and sexual exploitation. UNODC’s new Report covers 148 countries and provides an overview of patterns and flows of trafficking in persons at global, regional and national levels.

Global Report 2020 shows that traffickers take huge advantage of the the pandemic-induced recession to exploit the most vulnerable, such as migrants and people without jobs, and that the covid-19-induced recession, the economic fallout and job losses due to the pandemic have exposed millions more to the risk.

“Millions of women, children and men worldwide are out of work, out of school and without social support in the continuing covid-19 crisis, leaving them at greater risk of human trafficking.” declared UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly. “In every part of the world, we are seeing that covid has worsened the plight of at-risk women and girls, while also hindering criminal justice responses and reducing support to victims.”

According to the Report, the share of children among detected trafficking victims has tripled while the share of boys has increased five times in the past 15 years. Girls are mainly trafficked for sexual exploitation, while boys are used for forced labour.

Female victims continue to be the primary targets for trafficking in persons. For every 10 victims detected globally, about five were adult women and two were young girls. Around 20 per cent of human trafficking victims were adult men and 15 per cent were young boys. About 50,000 human trafficking victims were detected and reported by 148 countries. However, given the hidden nature of this crime, the actual number of victims trafficked is far higher.

Over the last 15 years, the number of detected victims has increased, while their profile has changed. The share of adult women among the detected victims fell from more than 70 per cent to less than 50 per cent, while the share of children detected has increased, from around 10 per cent to over 30 per cent.

Overall, 50 per cent of detected victims were trafficked for sexual exploitation, 38 per cent were exploited for forced labour, six per cent were subjected to forced criminal activity, while one per cent were coerced into begging and smaller numbers into forced marriages, organ removal, and other purposes.

Traffickers see their victims as commodities without regard for human dignity and rights. They sell fellow human beings for a price that can range from tens of US dollars to tens of thousands, with large criminal organizations making the highest incomes.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the UN Women Executive Director, reported that most female survivors, or nearly 80 per cent, are trafficked for sexual exploitation: “There are socioeconomic consequences when these crimes happen, but in times of pandemic, the socioeconomic impact is even deeper,” she said. “Forty-seven million more women and girls will be pushed to extreme poverty because of covid-19, but business is booming for traffickers.”

UNODC’s 2020 Global Report also found that traffickers integrated technology into their modus operandi at every stage of the process: from recruiting to exploiting victims. Children are especially vulnerable on social media: many of them are an easy target in their search for acceptance, attention, or friendship.

UNODC has identified two types of strategies: “hunting” involving a trafficker actively pursuing a victim, typically on social media; and “fishing”, when perpetrators post job advertisements and wait for potential victims to respond. The internet allows traffickers to live stream the exploitation of their victims, which enables the simultaneous abuse of one victim by many consumers around the globe.

UNOCD “Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2020”
UNODC Press Release
UNODC Data and Analysis