What Will It Take to End Modern Slavery?

By: Joanne Lu

A former fishing boat slave profiled in the new film, Ghost Fleet. Photo courtesy of Vulcan Productions.

A former fishing boat slave profiled in the new film, Ghost Fleet.
Photo courtesy of Vulcan Productions.

We often think of slavery as a scourge of the past, something that developed countries, at least, abolished centuries ago. But devastatingly, slavery continues to thrive around the world, in both rich and poor countries – so much so that it is addressed in three of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030. Today, we call it human trafficking.

Although the term often evokes the idea of victims being smuggled across borders, human trafficking is much more than that. It is the exploitation of people – usually girls and women – through force, fraud or coercion for labor, sex, marriage, organ removal, illegal adoption, begging or other purposes.

In January, the UN’s Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said that the number of trafficking victims being reported by countries is increasing. However, it’s difficult for the agency to say if that trend reflects an actual increase in victims or if countries are just doing a better job at detecting and reporting them. Either way, we are far from a complete and accurate picture of the global scale of trafficking, but what we do know is bleak.

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