According to the Department of Homeland Security, human trafficking is "modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act." 


Human trafficking is a widespread and hugely profitable industry. According to the Global Slavery Index, there are an estimated 45.8 million slaves today. Human trafficking worldwide garners $150 billion annually. Why exactly is trafficking so profitable? Firstly, all trafficking transactions are untaxed and conducted in cash. Secondly, the people who act as commodities for their traffickers are infinitely reusable. Anyone, no matter their age or gender, can be a trafficking victim. However, in the United States, 70% of reported trafficking victims are women and 50% are children.



Now, let's look at the different forms of trafficking. Human trafficking comes in two major types: sex trafficking and labor trafficking.


Sex trafficking is sexual exploitation through force, fraud or coercion OR any sexual exploitation in which the victim is a minor (Trafficking Victims Protection Act 2000).


Sex trafficking is often confused for prostitution, a common thought process that allows most people to ignore or unfairly criticize victims. This approach is fundamentally flawed for several reasons. Firstly, minors cannot be prostitutes. Minors cannot consent to any form of sexual contact with an adult. A second distinction between trafficked persons and prostitutes is that trafficking victims do not keep the money they earn. Instead, their pimps or controllers may force them to perform sex acts in exchange for food, to pay off a debt, or under threats of violence against themselves or their family. 


Labor trafficking is force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery (Trafficking Victims Protection Act 2000).


Labor trafficking can easily be conflated with labor exploitation, but there are several key differences between the two. Whereas exploited workers may have unfair pay, trafficked workers may have little to no pay at all. Trafficking victims also have no freedom of movement or the freedom to leave their positions. They may be compelled to stay with their controllers by constantly growing debt, threats against family, or withheld documentation.