Organizational Partner Q&A
What is trafficking and how can we prevent it ? An interview with ECPAT
Every day, traffickers trade thousands of people as commodities and sell them into exploitative situations such as prostitution, forced labor, or slavery.
In order to effectively fight against trafficking and protect the victims, it is imperative to look at this reality from a closer perspective and to educate ourselves on the subject.
On the occasion of World Day against Trafficking in persons (30 July), the IGLTA Foundation in collaboration with ECPAT-USA discussed trafficking, how it overlaps with the travel industry, and also how it impacts the LGBTQ+ community.
How do you define human trafficking?
Trafficking often looks like an individual who uses their power over someone or exploits someone’s vulnerabilities to abuse them. Specifically, in our work on the commercial sexual exploitation of children, we’re looking at anyone under the age of 18 who is bought and sold for sexual purposes. Children are also victims of sex trafficking when they engage in sex in return for basic needs, such as food and shelter.
U.S. laws break up the definition of human trafficking into two: sex and labor trafficking. Sex trafficking is defined as a commercial sex act that is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age, and labor trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
How prevalent are LGBTQ+ cases among the victims of human trafficking?
This is hard to say, as data on trafficking and the LGBTQ+ community continues to be underreported in the U.S. The sexual orientation and gender identity of trafficking victims in the U.S. are usually not even measured. This lack of data is a significant barrier to being able to support the LGBTQ+ community effectively.
Is/are there a region(s) where LGBTQ+ trafficking is most common?
Unfortunately, this is another area where it’s hard to say due to a lack of significant data.
What makes the LGBTQ+ community vulnerable to human trafficking?
The LGBTQ+ community still faces substantial challenges when it comes to equality and LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely to face sexual violence and stigmatization compared to non-LGBTQ+ identifying individuals. LGBTQ+ youth are also more likely to face homelessness. It is these adverse childhood experiences and the feelings that result from them—for example, isolation, loneliness, and fear—that traffickers often exploit.
Have you conducted any specific studies on the human trafficking of the LGBTQ+ community?
We have not, but this study includes more information on the intersection of these two issues: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4204396/.
We’re also always exploring options for funding to really be able to take a deep research dive into how trafficking affects specific communities.
In what businesses within the tourism and travel industry might trafficking be occurring?
Trafficking is happening everywhere, in all communities and businesses. If we look at trafficking happening in the context of vulnerabilities, then trafficking happens in all spaces. However, people in the tourism and travel industry do have an opportunity to identify and respond appropriately to trafficking. If you're at work or traveling yourself, you often have a chance to observe the dynamics of people around you. In terms of situations that could be potentially exploitative, you should look for signs of a controlling interaction. This could be things like a gesture or look from a trafficker that provokes fear, hearing threats or insults, or seeing signs of physical abuse. However, It’s important to note that there is no one red flag and that encountering any one human trafficking indicator isn’t necessarily proof of exploitation.
If you see an instance that you suspect may be trafficking, the best thing you can do is report the incident, to a manager, security guard, or national hotline. (In the U.S., you can reach the National Trafficking Hotline at 1 (888) 373-7888.) Do not intervene directly.
As tourism professionals, how can our members' teams and staff help prevent human trafficking?
Training is key, and it’s important to tie in what you learn about these issues at work to your community as well. It’s really necessary to look at the root causes of trafficking and communities that are disproportionately affected by these issues, such as low-income communities, LGBTQ+ communities, and communities of color.
What training materials do you offer that we can share with our members to assist in the fight?
We don’t have resources that specifically focus on the LGBTQ+ population, but some general resources are:
Training for Hotel Associates: https://www.ecpatusa.org/hotel-training
Training for Travel Professionals: https://www.ecpatusa.org/travel-elearning
Guides To Online Safety: https://www.ecpatusa.org/onlinesafetytips
Social Identity Quest: https://socialidentityquest.com/
How can our business members raise awareness about human trafficking with LGBTQ+ travelers?
These issues tend to get a lot of attention in January, National Human Trafficking Awareness Month in the U.S., and on days like World Day Against Trafficking in July. It’s important to continue these conversations year-round. We here at ECPAT-USA are always available to support businesses in their efforts to educate travelers and create employee engagement events that focus on these issues.