Last week, the U.S. State Department released its annual Trafficking in Persons report for 2018. This year’s report stresses the importance of understanding human trafficking from a local perspective, and outlines community-based initiatives to combat the practice.
The report puts forward a cross-cutting framework for cooperation among multiple stakeholders. In particular, cooperation must take place vertically between, national, regional, and local governments, and horizontally between law enforcement officials, service providers, and other key stakeholders, such as NGOs. According to the report, the most comprehensive model for community-based action would also involve the following steps:
- Conducting assessments of the nature and scope of the problem (How many potential victims are there? What demographic is most affected? What are the underlying socioeconomic factors fueling the human trafficking problem in the community?)
- Raising awareness on victim identification among stakeholders;
- Engaging professionals likely to come into contact with the affected population, such as health care professionals and educators;
- Raising community awareness and fighting social stigma towards victims; and
- Developing institutional processes and protocols to provide housing, legal assistance, etc. to victims.
In a post on the Department of State’s official blog, Kari Johnstone, the Acting Director of the agency’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, also highlighted that human trafficking is at its root a community issue, albeit a multifaceted and far-reaching one. “It is important to remember, however, that despite its pernicious global sweep, human trafficking happens in local communities — in a favorite nail salon or restaurant, in a neighbor’s home, on a farm, or in a city’s streets,” she writes. “Traffickers reap profits from the exploitation of others, leaving individual victims and their local communities to face the consequences.”
Broader attention is being paid to human trafficking, both in the international community and in the United States, in light of the United States controversial sex trafficking law, FOSTA. The Global Initiative, Babson College’s Initiative on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery, and the United Nations Migration Agency recently founded the RESPECT initiative: the Responsible and Ethical Private Sector Coalition against Trafficking. The initiative aims to foster public and private sector cooperation to combat human trafficking.
Critics of FOSTA have denounced the legislation for infringing on free speech and sex workers’ rights. The digital rights organization Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) recently filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against the government, arguing that the law violates the First and Fifth Amendments.