In Memory of Trafficked Victims in Africa and Everywhere

By Susan Marx 

In a world where nearly every day on the annual calendar is an “international day” of something, today commemorates arguably one of the grimmest and most shameful realities in our modern era. Today, July 30th, is “World Day Against Trafficking in Persons,” and while this day will come and go for most of us, it commemorates the 20 to 40 million people worldwide currently suspected to be victims of trafficking. To put it in perspective, that amounts to the population of all of Scandinavia (Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway) and the Netherlands combined, or closer to home, the combined populations of Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, Lesotho, and Malawi.

The victims of trafficking are today, as they were in ancient times, slaves. They are bought and sold like commodities, enslaved, raped, tortured, and discarded when their purpose is served. They are stripped of dignity, agency, identity, and freedom. Though women and children still account for the majority of victims, often sold into sex work, the number of men continues to increases annually. While committed advocates and implementers across non-profits, international, and multinational organizations dedicate tens of millions of dollars to fight the problem with the “triple-P” of protection, prosecution, and prevention, the problem seems to be outpacing positive progress. Quite simply, the other side is winning.

Here on the African continent the persistent problem undermines much of the progress being made politically and economically, even if leaders deny or ignore it. It is imperative that governments sincerely commit to eradicating this modern form of slavery that’s targeting the most vulnerable populations. So while we bask in the glow of the Mandela Centennial celebration and the landmark elections in Zimbabwe, let us not forget that these shiny events hide a grim reality that policy makers and politicians too often ignore in favor of the silver lining. Trafficking is here. Trafficking is real. Trafficking is slavery.

Currently, the American Bar Association (ABA ROLI) is partnering with the Africa Prosecutors Association to strengthen their ability to serve members states as a resource on human trafficking. Read more about the partnership here.

Susan Marx is the Project Director of the Southern Africa Anti-Trafficking in Persons Program at ABA ROLI.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABA ROLI.