COVID-19 is feeding the “growing evil” of human trafficking, pulling more of the world’s children into slavery and sexual exploitation, a new report reveals.
The pandemic has “cemented human trafficking as the third biggest illicit trade on the planet, behind illegal arms sales and drugs,” says the report by Texas-based humanitarian agency Gospel for Asia (GFA World, www.gfa.org).
“The global pandemic has only heightened the desperation of those at risk and deepened the cunning of the traffickers,” says the report, (https://www.gfa.org/press/human-trafficking/), citing worsening poverty and hunger as key drivers of the $150 billion a year global slave trade.
“The horrific exploitation of children and young adults for sex and forced labor is the most vile crime,” said GFA World founder K.P. Yohannan. “We must act now to cut off this growing evil.”
Travel and border restrictions — intended to slow the spread of the virus — have driven traffickers underground and made victims more difficult to identify, the report says. Of the estimated 20-30 million slaves in the world today, four out of every five are women or girls.
A Wider Net
The surge in online activity due to lockdowns is giving traffickers a wider net to entrap potential victims, including children. Police in Canada warn that “chatter in dark web forums” shows predators view the pandemic as an opportunity to lure children into the sex industry.
In some parts of Asia, traffickers enlist or coerce parents and other relatives to sell their children to “placement agencies” — fronts for domestic slavery.
Predators are even “masquerading as helpers” to find new victims. “Forced prostitution and chosen sex work are going to acquire a new momentum in the post-COVID-19 world,” the report says.
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SOURCE: Assist News Service