Trafficking Grows As Young Victims Remain Hidden in Pandemic’s Shadow | GFA World Special Report #2
WILLS POINT, TX — GFA World (Gospel for Asia) founded by K.P. Yohannan, whose heart to love and help the poor has inspired numerous charities like GFA World Canada, to serve the deprived and downcast worldwide, issued this second part of a Special Report update on girls facing decreased opportunity and increased violence, the young victims who remain hidden in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Pandemic of Abuse and Exploitation
As girls face an increased risk of child marriage, they are also becoming more vulnerable to violence and trafficking.
In May 2020, World Vision, a Christian community development organization, suggested up to 85 million children worldwide would be exposed to physical, sexual or emotional violence for three months over the COVID-19 quarantine. Imagine how many more children have now been impacted — lockdowns in many nations extended to well over a year! And while all children can face violence, girls and young women may also face abuse from a husband or boyfriend, rape, sexual assault or sexual harassment.
UNICEF reports that approximately 120 million girls and young women under age 20 have been raped or forced to perform sexual acts. According to the World Health Organization, around 1 in 3 women endure physical or sexual violence from a romantic partner or sexual violence from some person during their lifetime.
“It’s deeply disturbing that this pervasive violence by men against women not only persists unchanged, but is at its worst for young women aged 15–24 who may also be young mothers,” commented Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women. “And that was the situation before the pandemic stay-at-home orders. We know that the multiple impacts of COVID-19 have triggered a ‘shadow pandemic’ of increased reported violence of all kinds against women and girls.”
The pandemic has also increased girls’ risk for human trafficking. In April 2020, the anti-trafficking organization Polaris Project observed a 40-percent spike in the number of crisis calls to the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline requiring intervention within 24 hours.
This increase in human trafficking didn’t just occur in the United States, though, and it may have the worst impact on developing nations, some of which have been hardest-hit by the virus. The U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime has predicted trafficking rates will increase, especially in places where unemployment rates have rapidly increased, and people from poor communities will likely be trafficked to places recovering more quickly.
This may continue even years from now, due to the pandemic’s ongoing financial and social impacts. Times of economic need make children especially vulnerable to trafficking, and if a girl comes from a dysfunctional family situation or a home where one parent is absent, that also increases her risk for trafficking. Furthermore, in places where children can easily access technology, they are spending more time online, which places girls in the sights of predators who might target them for sexual exploitation or abuse. As the pandemic continues to strain both the economy and family relationships, girls will be increasingly at risk for trafficking. According to 2018 findings, girls comprised about 20 percent of total trafficking victims and 25 percent of victims trafficked for sexual exploitation, but those percentages may increase due to changes in society, such as children’s increased time online, emotional stressors on parents (which may distract their attention from their children) and increased financial burdens on families (which may cause parents, especially in developing countries, to send their daughters to work, thus making them more available to traffickers).
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