Stories about human trafficking are appearing with greater frequency in the news, but most people have probably not grasped the scale of the problem nor its disproportionate impact on women.

The United States has declared January “National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month”. The occasion culminates with National Freedom Day on February 1.

In his proclamation, President Obama summarizes the nature of human trafficking: “Victims can be abused in their own countries, or find themselves far from home and vulnerable. Whether they are trapped in forced sexual or labor exploitation, human trafficking victims cannot walk away, but are held in service through force, threats, and fear. All too often suffering from horrible physical and sexual abuse, it is hard for them to imagine that there might be a place of refuge.”

Looking a little deeper, Say No -UNiTE To End Violence Against Women, an awareness-raising partner of The Pixel Project, gives more insight into the victims of human trafficking, noting that “[w]omen and girls comprise 80 percent of the estimated 800,000 people trafficked annually , with the majority (79 percent) trafficked for sexual exploitation.” That means more than 500,000 women and girls are trafficked for sexual exploitation every year.

The UN Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT) has also noted the impact on women, stating in a fact sheet that 98% of the human trafficking victims used for forced commercial sexual exploitation are women and girls. What’s worse, there has been little success in prosecuting the perpetrators. UN.GIFT states in the same fact sheet that for every 800 people trafficked, only 1 person was convicted in 2006.

A recent study by UN. GIFT also noted the particular vulnerability of women during armed conflict and post-conflict situations: “During times of armed conflict women and girls are often abducted and enslaved by government or rebel forces. They are held as military sexual slaves, to perform forced labour, or as forced combatants. Abducted women face huge social, health and economic problems

after their escape or release from the camps. However, national and international postconflict recovery, reconciliation and reconstruction programmes have failed to pay attention to the particular situation of abducted and enslaved women during war. “

Like all forms of violence against women, human trafficking in women and girls will not stop unless we talk about the issue and motivate citizens and governments to take action.

The Pixel Project aims to raise awareness of all forms of violence against women, including human trafficking. We encourage you to share this blog post to help us shine a light on a crime that is destroying the lives of hundreds of thousands of women and girls every year.

To learn more about human trafficking, especially as it affects girls and women, refer to the links above and to other sources of information, like the website of our partner, Survivors Connect, an organisation that uses innovative instruments such as social media and connective technologies to empower and enhance protection, prosecution and prevention efforts in the areas of slavery and human trafficking. As part of their efforts, Survivors Connect provides SMS alert services for Haiti, a country that has seen rates of human trafficking increase in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake of last year. UNFPA and Human Rights Watch are other good sources of information about human trafficking.

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