Update: The Coronavirus Impact on Human Trafficking

It’s been roughly three months since governments and societies began responding on a large scale to COVID-19. And it has been three months that advocates have been warning about and reporting on increased exploitation, particularly online.

New research proves there has been a surge in human trafficking caused by the global crisis; yet, organizations are also pinpointing opportunities to help and activism is making an impact.

A recent report from Interpol shows that while COVID-19 made transportation of trafficked humans more difficult and disrupted migration patterns, “The COVID-19 pandemic has not blunted the determination of organized crime groups to prey on the vulnerable and make profit from these crimes.”

Research into the impact of infectious diseases on human trafficking underscores the importance of not suspending aid, but rather intensifying vigilance to protect the influx of vulnerable people.

Similarly, a Polaris analysis found Trafficking Hotline crisis cases increased by more than 40% in the month following shelter-in-place orders compared to the same period in 2019, and the need for immediate emergency shelter nearly doubled. Their proposed solutions include:

  • Prioritizing housing for vulnerable individuals, families, and communities, including the homeless and those aging out of the child welfare and foster systems who are particularly vulnerable to trafficking.

  • Directing resources to emergency shelter, food, transportation, and medical and behavioral health treatment.

Fortunately, activists have been highlighting the surge in online sex trafficking during coronavirus and fighting to diminish access and demand. At the beginning of the pandemic, Exodus Cry began their Traffickinghub campaign to shut down Pornhub, the largest online pornography platform. And the timing proved crucial. As countries began restricting movement, online pornography and sexual exploitation skyrocketed–and pornography platforms took advantage of the pandemic for profit.

Four months into their campaign, Exodus Cry has successfully collected 1 million petitions from 192 counties to shut down Pornhub. Legislators have voiced support, the media has provided extensive coverage, and grassroots activism has swelled.

Why does this matter?

Pornography perpetuates sexual objectification and frequently employs the same sex trafficking tactics of violence, exploitation, and inequality. Holding pornography suppliers accountable for distributing criminal material, such as child pornography, will help protect victims.

However, it also matters because it shows the power every individual possesses to foster change and accountability. While the potential for increased suffering can be depressing and overwhelming, it’s important to remember actions collectively better the world.

Every one person saved from exploitation is a victory.

If you would like to help the cause in your area, reach out and we will happily help connect you with opportunities.