A variety of global issues impact the orphan crisis. Poverty, as we discussed, is the leading cause of family disruption. Human trafficking also affects the orphan population. As defined by the UN, human trafficking is "the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation" (UNODC). While we often associate sex slavery with human trafficking, that is only one form of human trafficking. Every year, men, women, and children are trafficked for a variety of reasons, including forced labor, slavery, organ harvesting, and sexual exploitation.

Approximately 21 million people have been trafficked throughout the world, and 55% of those being trafficked are women and girls. While the majority of the victims are over the age of 18, a staggering 26% of people trafficked are children (approximately 5.5 million). Children are used for prostitution, sex tourism, pornography, forced marriage, sweatshop work, begging, armed services, and migrant farming (UNICEF). The average age of a child victim is between ages 11 and 14 (Ark of Hope).  

Why are people being trafficked? What is the purpose? Human trafficking is an incredibly lucrative business, as is evidenced by these statistics from Human Rights First:

"Human trafficking earns profits of roughly $150 billion a year for traffickers, according to the ILO [Internal Labor Organization]. The following is a breakdown of profits, by sector:

  • $99 billion from commercial sexual exploitation
  • $34 billion in construction, manufacturing, mining, and utilities
  • $9 billion in agriculture, including forestry, and fishing
  • $8 billion dollars is saved annually by private households that employ domestic workers under conditions of forced labor"

Men, women, and children are trafficked through a variety of means. Sometimes they are tricked into believing they have been offered a job. Sometimes they are held captive through violence. Sometimes they are sold by another person. In some of the worst cases, mothers and fathers may willingly sell their children as a means of providing for the rest of the family or they may give them to a trafficker that they mistakenly believe will be a loving parent.

It’s easy to see the variety of ways that human trafficking can tear a family apart, regardless of which member of the family is trafficked. When a mother or father is removed from the picture, a child’s future is in jeopardy. Likewise, a child who has been trafficked immediately is in danger of a variety of other atrocities, and may even continue the orphan cycle when he/she has a child of his/her own.