Human trafficking is a modern form of slavery, according to the United Nations (U.N.), which has been fighting this type of crime for more than a decade.
In South America, the majority of victims are women, following the trend in other parts of the world, according to the 2020 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Published in February 2021, with data gathered from 148 countries, the study offers an overview of the patterns and flow of human trafficking at the global, regional, and national levels. The data is based on trafficking cases identified between 2016 and 2019.
According to the document, 2,358 adult women were victims of trafficking in South America in 2018, while 850 were men. Among children, 172 were girls and 41 were boys. Women are usually forced into a network of sexual exploitation, although forced labor is another common practice in this region, making up about 35 percent of victims.
UNODC also outlines the flow of trafficking. The study shows that 97 percent of victims in South America are citizens of the same country where they are exploited, or come from countries within the same region. Abroad, victims of trafficking from South America were found mainly in Europe, North America, Eastern Asia, and the Middle East.
Men account for about 60 percent of the traffickers arrested in South America.
The study indicates that about 50,000 victims were identified worldwide in 2018, which shows that “the actual number of victims trafficked may be much greater, considering the covert nature of this crime.”
In 2018, for every 10 victims detected globally, five were adult women and two were young girls. However, among male victims, this ratio was approximately 20 percent adult men and 15 percent young boys.
Regardless of gender, age, or origin of the people who fall into these criminal networks, victims all share a common characteristic: vulnerability. U.N. representatives are concerned that the recession caused by the pandemic will expose a greater number of individuals to trafficking.
“Millions of women, children, and men in every part of the world are out of work, out of school, and without social support in this ongoing COVID-19 crisis, which increases the risk of human trafficking. We need targeted actions to stop criminal traffickers from taking advantage of the pandemic to exploit vulnerable people,” said Ghada Waly, UNODC executive director.