Human Trafficking: What Can Companies Do?
This year focuses especially on combating the trafficking of children and young people
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” M. L. King

In its 2000 protocol, the UN defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring 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. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”

In 2013, the UN designated July 30th as the “World Day against Trafficking in Persons”. It involves a plan of action in which countries undertake to combat this issue that violates the fundamental rights of human beings. Moreover, by promoting this day, the UN seeks to generate greater awareness of this problem, which exists on the global level and makes no distinction between gender, age, religion or socioeconomic background.

This year, the UN has specifically designated “Responding to the trafficking of children and young people” as the topic that requires greater attention and sensitivity, since children account for almost a third of all trafficking victims. It is of particular concern that these are the victims that have the least possibilities of defending themselves. The designation of this day by the UN as a “Global Day” not only seeks to generate greater awareness of this topic, but also to act as a call to action in order to eradicate this crime once and for all.

Victims and social repercussions

The International Labor Organization has estimated that 21 million people are the victims of forced labor. How many of these people are the victims of trafficking is unknown, but millions of people have been harmed by this problem. This is extremely serious, particularly considering that in North America the victims are mainly women and girls. People living in the most vulnerable circumstances, who hope to find a better future, are those who are involved in trafficking when traffickers identify and take advantage of this desire to improve their quality of life, as reflected in David Pablos’ crude movie, “The Chosen Ones”.

Traffickers, seeking monetary gain, trick men, women and children to submit them to diverse types of exploitation every day. These people have become the modern-day slaves. Those who fall into this trap constantly live in precarious circumstances.

According to the non-governmental organization Anti-Slavery International, people who are in slavery: i) are forced to work under threat; ii) are controlled by their captors; iii) are dehumanized and treated as a commodity; iv) have restrictions placed on their freedom of movement and very often are forced to live in infrahuman conditions. Even though sexual exploitation usually comes to mind, there are other extremely common forms, such as forced labor, children forced into begging and illegal adoptions. Most alarmingly, this type of dynamics deprives people of the last bastion of their human condition: dignity.

Different types of exploitation take place every day and it is incumbent on us, as citizens, to become more sensitive and realize that there might be many people around us who share this type of story. Have we become indifferent to the pain of others? We urgently need to increase our responsiveness.

What responsibility do companies have?

Organizations cannot detach themselves from this type of dynamics. It is of utmost importance that their leaders should understand the gravity of this problem, in order to prevent their collaborators from forming part of the rings that violate the human rights of the most vulnerable.

Exploitation within companies can come in many forms, some of which are even quite common, ranging from those who do not receive a decent wage for their work and those who are forced to work extra hours without any additional pay. Unquestionably, these are situations that business leaders can and should endeavor to prevent.

Finally, companies’ active support for the funds created to help people who are or have been victims of human trafficking is vital. This commitment between companies and funds generates the notion of a shared responsibility to fight against this type of practices. Action by committed companies is key to eradicating this grave problem that so profoundly threatens the social and business fabric of Mexico and of many other countries.