The Rise of Human Trafficking
By Naomi Zacharias
In doing a little research today, I came across articles like this BBC story referencing 2012 UK government reports on the growing number of victims of human trafficking. This problem is not limited to one country, and it continues to be a global plague rather than that of any one nation.
Rising figures beg the question, does this mean the problem is increasing or have we instead perhaps grown in our ability to recognize and record any one victim of this modern slavery pandemic?
Accurate statistics for human trafficking are always difficult to obtain for several reasons. Countless cases go unreported as victims are too scared to press charges or publicly accuse their perpetrator. Many countries battle corrupt law enforcement teams that help to cover crimes or even help to facilitate them. While our numbers are certainly far from accurate, it is likely that the rising awareness, programs, laws, and accountability structures have helped to improve our ability or incentive to recognize the crime and account for violations.
I was recently asked when I thought we would solve the problem of human trafficking. It was a full auditorium, and I knew the questioner behind the microphone expected me to have a conclusive answer that mirrored the hopeful assumption in the question- not if, but when. Human trafficking is ultimately a reflection of the darkness and even the horrors found within the human heart. Until that issue is addressed, I think we will be at battle with its tragic symptoms including various forms of modern slavery.
And so we come back to the original question: is the problem of human trafficking increasing or have we grown in our ability to recognize its victims? It seems likely the answer is both. On a national and global scale we can and do seek to improve systems, leading to information that is more reliable even if still only a small snapshot of the magnitude of the crime. And yet with our advocacy and programs and interventions, this tragic violation of human rights is still on the rise. It is not a hopeless situation, and frankly is one that necessitates we continue to combat it whether the statistical data indicates the number of victims is on the rise or on the decline. Yet treating the symptom will not eliminate the heart of the crime. That is an issue that goes beyond government programs and straight to the heart of each one us as human beings.