Poverty and Human Trafficking: Myth-Busting
By Simon Butcher
Last week, the Institute for Trafficked, Exploited and Missing Persons (ITEMP) published a new report identifying poverty as the root cause of human trafficking. “By finding the roots of the problem, we can begin to look for permanent solutions,” ITEMP Director of Operations Charles Moore said.
You can perhaps imagine the scene: the worldwide anti-trafficking movement sat together in a grand auditorium as the ‘root cause’ is announced. The lights go down, the room falls silent as the host opens the golden envelope, announcing… “And the root cause of human trafficking is….global poverty”.
There’s some polite clapping and some patting of backs, but the overwhelming feeling in the room is one of slight demoralization. “Well how are we meant to solve global poverty?” they ask each other. “So to stop trafficking we have to eliminate poverty first?” they whisper, disheartened.
It goes without saying that tackling poverty is a massively important cause. But the good news is that combating trafficking does not require us to eradicate world poverty.
Myth number 1: “Poverty is the sole cause of human trafficking.”
Not only is blaming poverty alone for human trafficking disheartening, it’s also misleading and inaccurate. There may be a correlation between the two phenomena, and poverty almost certainly increases an individual’s vulnerability to trafficking, but so many other factors come into play too. To name but 5: the approach taken by law enforcement authorities to the issue; the legislative measures taken by national governments; global gender inequalities; the level of access to education; falling in love with the wrong guy… Most of these things can be shaped and influenced, and it’s up to us to do so.
Myth number 2: “There’s not much we can do about such a huge issue.”
Yes, it’s a huge, global problem, but it’s also a local issue. Every case of trafficking starts in a community and ends in a community; every case of trafficking is preventable. The human trafficking industry is thriving because it is so low risk. Every one of us can do something to make the risk to the trafficker higher; to make it impossible for traffickers to hide themselves and their victims. ACT (Active Communities against Trafficking) is a worldwide network of groups tackling human trafficking by doing just that. You can get involved here.
Moreover, every one of us can do something to tackle the root causes of trafficking – and it doesn’t require you to eradicate world poverty. Through the Freedom Ticket For Life campaign, STOP THE TRAFFIK is supporting community groups in trafficking hotspots around the world. Together, we are increasing access to education, raising awareness of the dangers amongst the most vulnerable, and helping people build lives free from the risk of trafficking. Find out how you can join the Freedom Ticket For Life campaign here.
So often, poverty is presented as a mammoth barrier standing in the way of stopping trafficking. It isn’t – there is no barrier – this is a winnable fight.