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We must win the battle against human trafficking

Statement by UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem: World Day Against Trafficking in Persons 2020

Every year, tens of thousands of people are trafficked across and within national borders. While men and boys tend to be trafficked into forced labour, women and girls tend to be trafficked into forced sex.

Traffickers prey upon the poor and the vulnerable, binding them in unspeakable conditions where every human right is violated. They wield physical and psychological violence, drugs and sexual abuse as weapons to control their victims. And with sexual exploitation and abuse comes a heightened risk of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, making a dire situation deadly.

Even under the best of circumstances, women and girls around the world are less likely than men and boys to enjoy their fundamental rights to health, autonomy, bodily integrity and freedom from violence. Trafficking takes these inequalities to the extreme.

On this World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, I call on national and local governments, law enforcement, criminal justice systems and human rights organizations to redouble efforts to identify and report trafficking, bring perpetrators to justice, and support survivors. 

I also call on governments, community organizations, schools and other institutions to invest in women and girls and guarantee them equal rights and opportunities so that they can fulfill their potential and live a life of dignity, free of harm. 

Additional efforts are needed during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is undermining livelihoods, worsening poverty and increasing women’s vulnerability to traffickers, whose schemes may become harder for law enforcement to uncover during lockdowns.

Trafficking must never be tolerated, and our fight against it must continue even during the pandemic. We must not stop until this affront to human rights is brought to an end.