By Karen Dickinson
“No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.” – The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948
January 11th is National Human Trafficking Day in the US, part of Human Trafficking Awareness Month, which recognises the global tragedy of modern slavery and calls on the world to take action against it. It is estimated that the number of human beings enslaved in the world today has reached over 20.9 million worldwide, which is the highest figure in recorded history. According to advocacy group Polaris Project, human trafficking is a form of slavery where individuals profit through forcing others to provide labour, services or sex against their will through ‘violence, threats, deception, debt bondage and other manipulative tactics.’
In the UK the Home Office estimates that there could be as many as 13,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK. Bristol-based charity Unseen UK works directly with victims of slavery and human trafficking, offering support to survivors and vulnerable people, and offering training, advice and resources so that potential victims can be identified and helped. Human trafficking is a problem in Bristol and during 2013, there were 120 reports about suspected human trafficking. Detective Inspector Richard Budd, who worked on Operations Pentameter I and II (nationwide crackdowns on human trafficking in 2005 and 2007) told the Bristol Evening Post: “We have experienced human trafficking as a problem in Bristol. We know criminals have been operational in trafficking women for sexual exploitation. Because there is a knowledge gap, it is impossible to say how many trafficked individuals there are. But in terms of sex trafficking, my gut feeling is that there are scores of women. It’s about working with communities to fill that knowledge gap. We only know so much but there are so many more victims out there.”
Bristol Zero Tolerance has partnered with Unseen UK and Unchosen to help raise awareness and address human trafficking in Bristol as a form of gender-based violence. Human trafficking fuels violence against all genders, but women are particularly affected, with two-thirds of identified victims being female. Eliminating gender discrimination and gender-based violence will help to prevent women and girls being trafficked and support this important fight against modern day slavery.