Human Trafficking Awareness Day: How hunger plays a role


With an estimated 30 million people trapped in the modern day slavery known as human trafficking, it begs the question-how do victims end up there? What circumstances lead an individual into a life of slavery, and how is hunger related? Today is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day -a moment for us to learn more about one of the most horrific crimes happening everyday in our own backyard and around the world.

So, what exactly is human trafficking?

Human trafficking is the sale, transport and profit of human beings who are forced to work against their will (or, involuntary servitude). Human trafficking is slavery. Millions of adults and children are forced to work in a variety of ways including:

• Forced labor
• Sex trafficking
• Bonded labor – where a worker’s debt is exploited.
• Forced domestic servitude
• Child soldiers

And this is where hunger comes in.

Victims of human trafficking are often the most desperate, needy and vulnerable people in a society. When you’re hungry, nothing else matters. Hunger controls you. A mother experiences helplessness when she is unable to feed her children and most parents will do just about anything to ensure their children have food. The feelings of desperation that the poor experience due to hunger make them vulnerable to the devious ploys of traffickers.

Who’s at risk?

Traffickers prey upon those who live below the poverty line, have food insecurities and are desperate. This desperation blinds the poor to otherwise obvious risks. For example, when a trafficker offers a child the hope of a good job—despite it being far away—many parents jump at the opportunity to give their son or daughter work. Families often ignore the risks in hope of a better life.

For young girls in Thailand, the pressure to provide for the family forces many into the sex industry. In fact, Bangkok, Thailand is known as the prostitution capital of the world and nearly half of all tourists visiting the country are “sex tourists” – individuals looking to engage in sex trafficking.   Living in a rural area, with little education and few job opportunities, the sad reality is that many girls and young women see prostitution as their only practical option and look to this form of tourism as the answer.

I recently saw a documentary about prostitution called Nefarious. In the film, the crew interviews prostitutes in Bangkok, finding selflessness and pain behind their flirty façade. With siblings who are hungry and a mother who’s sick; prostitution was the only way to help those they love. These girls have an obligation to care for their family and they aren’t taking their own feelings into consideration.

What now?

Hunger and poverty drives people to do things they would not normally do. It leads them to make uninformed decisions – choices that for some parents, lead their children to being sold into slavery. Battling human trafficking means not only going toe to toe with the perpetrators, but also the root causes that lead people into the industry.

Today, effect change. Follow the links below to read more, educate yourself, and learn how you can change the course of history by attacking hunger, poverty, and human trafficking.

World Vision ACT:S: Read more stories of human trafficking around the world.

Not For Sale: Find tools, resources, and creative ways to engage your community in ending slavery.

World Vision: Learn how you can take action.

The CNN Freedom Project: A national movement to end slavery.