Human Trafficking

I (Jacquelyn Meshelemiah) decided to commit my life to understanding forced prostitution (later termed, human trafficking) after meeting a young Black woman in Buffalo, New York in 1996 who had been trafficked for 10 years prior.  I was outraged by how poorly this person had been treated and was mortified by the reality that modern day slavery still existed. More than anything else, I had decided that I was not going to be silent just because I was not a victim.  I was not going to be silent just because the work would be daunting.  I was not going to be silent just because the work was not a typical trajectory for a college professor.  Last, I was not going to be silent just because society had determined, once again, that human life held different value in the eyes of the beholder. In fact, all of those things are why I am committed to identifying oppressive and exclusive systems in an effort to dismantle them brick by brick.  My life’s work is about justice, equity, inclusion, human diversity, diversity within diversity, human rights, women’s rights, and humanizing racial diversity.

Definition and Overview

Human trafficking involves recruitment, harbouring or transporting people into a situation of exploitation through the use of violence, deception or coercion and forced to work against their will.

In other words, trafficking is a process of enslaving people, coercing them into a situation with no way out, and exploiting them.

People can be trafficked for many different forms of exploitation such as forced prostitution, forced labour, forced begging, forced criminality, domestic servitude, forced marriage, and forced organ removal.

Contrary to a common misconception, people don’t necessarily have to be transported across borders for trafficking to take place. In fact, transporting or moving the victim doesn’t necessarily define trafficking.

When children are trafficked, no violence or coercion needs to be involved. Simply bringing them into exploitative conditions constitutes trafficking.

Trafficking for sexual exploitation gets much attention. However, the majority of people are trafficked into labour exploitation.

Many people who fall victim of trafficking want to escape poverty, improve their lives, and support their families. Often they get an offer of a well-paid job abroad or in another region. Often they borrow money from their traffickers in advance to pay for arranging the job, travel and accommodation.

When they arrive they find that the work they applied for does not exist, or the conditions are completely different. But it’s too late, their documents are often taken away and they are forced to work until their debt is paid off.