Trafficking in persons is the illegal commerce in human beings. It can be helpful to think of trafficking in persons, or human trafficking, as the process through which a person loses his or her freedom and is reduced to the status of someone else’s “property.” People who live through the trafficking process ultimately experience slavery because they become people over whom others assume the powers and “rights” of ownership. (National Center On Sexual Exploitation)
WHAT IS SEX TRAFFICKING?
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HOW DOES SEX TRAFFICKING HAPPEN?
The most common tactic to lure unsuspecting victims is the Boyfriend Technique (aka Romeo Pimping). Traffickers pose as a person with a romantic interest in the victim, often treating her better than anyone ever has. He will convince her they are a couple in love.
Traffickers (referred to as pimps) court the victim to find her missing void. It could be an absent father, secure housing, a steady food source, or something as simple as a listening ear.
Once he learns more about her, he will make her feel as though he alone cares for her to foster dependency and isolation. Before long he will use manipulation and intimidation to force the victim into having sex with others for money.
You can learn more about how the Boyfriend Technique works (here). Watch a video of a man charged with human trafficking describe how the technique is used to lure victims, (see, here).
WHERE DOES SEX TRAFFICKING HAPPEN?
In Canada, the majority of sex trafficking is domestic (within Canadian borders). Across Canada, sex trafficking often takes place in large urban centers, and also occurs in smaller cities and communities.
According to a 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report, Nova Scotia's capital city of Halifax, has the highest rate of reported human trafficking, seven times higher than the national rate. Ontario reported the highest number of human trafficking (see here).
The report further reflects every Canadian province, with the exception of Prince Edward Island, (Canada's smallest province) reported human trafficking between 2009-2019.
It is important to note the high probability of data being grossly underreported and not accurately documented by officials.
WHO DOES SEX TRAFFICKING HAPPEN TO?
Statistics Canada reported 95% of police-reported trafficking victims were girls and women, of which 43% were aged 18-24 (see here).
Children and youth in care, boys, men, and people who are 2SLGBTQQIA are also at risk (see here).
However, it's young women and girls who are particularly vulnerable to being targeted, especially those from Black, Indigenous, and other racialized communities which makes combatting sex trafficking a racial justice issue.
Both Black and Indigenous girls and women are dangerously overrepresented amongst sexually exploited individuals but due to systematic racism, there are little to no Canadian records to reflect the Black girl experience.
For Indigenous records see here, here, and here. One study reveals of the 400 children and youth sexually exploited in Winnipeg, Manitoba each year 70% - 80% are Indigenous (see here).
The root causes are systematic, rooted in structural and social iniquities and the ongoing and historical process of colonization.
Canada’s shameful colonial legacy has fostered disproportionately high levels of social and economic inequities, which in turn has made Black and Indigenous girls, women, and two-spirited people more vulnerable to sex trafficking.
WHAT IS THE CONNECTION BETWEEN PROSTITUTION AND SEX TRAFFICKING?
Not every person in prostitution has been sex trafficked. Yet, there are clear distinctions between sex trafficking and prostitution in Canada.
We must discuss sex trafficking within the context of prostitution because all sex trafficking happens within the commercial sex market. By definition, forced prostitution is human trafficking.
Under the Criminal Code of Canada, sex trafficking requires the exploitation of one person by another and is a crime. In Canada, adult prostitution is legal, although many of the activities that facilitate prostitution are illegal – including obtaining sexual services for consideration (see, here).
This means the purchase of sex is illegal in Canada and the current law criminalizes the buyer. It is critical we ensure the law remains this way in an effort to protect sexually exploited people.
The demand by sex buyers for people available in prostitution is what fuels the sex industry. Traffickers set girls into prostitution and advertised them where prostitution is advertised.
This makes it difficult to distinguish between those voluntarily and legally in prostitution with those who are forced into selling sex by others.
Regardless of how people enter into prostitution, they experience psychological and physical trauma at the hands of sex buyers and their traffickers.
Systems of prostitution prey on vulnerable people who face social and economic barriers and/or have histories of childhood neglect and sexual abuse.
The sex industry exploits vulnerable people whether they have experienced sex trafficking or not.