By: Emma Elshaw
Human trafficking happens in various countries around the world, and more and more attention is being paid to the reality of human trafficking in the news and mainstream media. However, there is not a signficant amount of attention being paid to the connection between sex trafficking and the BIPOC community. This is something that needs to change. When looking at the statistics, it is clear that BIPOC individuals are more at risk of being trafficked.
The ratio of population representation to trafficking cases for BIPOC individuals is drastically disproportionate. Though Black individuals account for 13% of the population in the U.S., they represent 33% of individuals selling sexual services. And it is not only Black individuals that are at a greater risk of being trafficked: “While Black children are more likely to experience some form of sex trafficking, other children of color are similarly at a higher risk than their white counterparts.” In Canada, for example, Indigenous individuals account for 4% of the population, yet represent 50% of individuals impacted by sex trafficking. This is quite the contrast.
Not only are BIPOC individuals at a higher risk of being trafficked, but they are also further disadvantaged by racism and oppression. One survivor commented on her realization that her worth was apparently less than that of her white counterparts, noting that “trafficking exemplifies the continued racism and oppression that exists in modern-day America.” Society can attempt to gloss over modern-day racism, claiming it to be a thing of the past, but examples like this highlight the fact that it is still happening today in the 21st century.
We know that traffickers use the vulnerabilities of those they are seeking to lure into sex trafficking. Systemic racism increases disadvantages in areas like employment, education, health and child welfare, housing, and food and water security, among other areas. A recent CTV news article reported that “Black Canadians face far steeper economic challenges than white Canadians and other racial groups.” BIPOC individuals face a great challenge in finding employment: some employers look for ‘Canadian experience’ and will more readily dismiss a BIPOC individual than their white counterparts. “[White] is considered the norm and everyone else is a subcategory of sorts,” noted one survivor.
When BIPOC individuals cannot find steady employment and therefore have a steady income, they and their families can become more vulnerable, creating a greater risk of being targeted by traffickers. “Any vulnerable child can be [trafficked for sex], but we can no longer gloss over the fact that the majority of those who are [targeted] are girls of color,” says actress and activist Gabrielle Union.
This is a reality - a reality that is happening today in the 21st century. It should not be happening, but it is. So now that we have seen the numbers, what do we do? How can we unite together to combat systemic racism and its expression in the realm of sex trafficking? We can continue to learn about the topic - there is still so much to learn. We can also speak out against racism and discrimination; for example, if you see an ad sexualizing a BIPOC individual, speak up about it. As they say, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Let’s take those steps together to begin to see transformation in our community and our world.