The impact of COVID-19 is not confined to sickness and death. Individuals without an income and other forms of support due to impacts of COVID-19 are at greater risk of being fraudulently recruited and falling victim to trafficking.
The United Nations has also warned that the fallout of COVID-19 – from business closures to shut borders – could drive more people into forced labour or sexual exploitation, and mean victims are less likely to be rescued or receive support.
Now, our country is also facing the same challenge. Due to COVID-19, there are fewer employment opportunities, creating more vulnerabilities and increasing the need to migrate elsewhere for job opportunities, which in turn may lead to increased cases of human trafficking.
Despite efforts being taken to fight human trafficking, in accordance with the 2005 Anti-Human Trafficking Law, trafficking-in-persons cases have not declined significantly year by year.
Trafficking is occurring in different forms — from exploitation of internal migrants and migrants crossing the border, and from sexual exploitation to forced marriage in neighboring countries.
From the 7th Anniversary of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Day which fell on 30 July last year to 8th anniversary this year, 148 trafficking in person cases have been identified and actions have been taken on a total of 475 offenders comprising of 170 males and 305 females.
A total of 222 victims of trafficking comprising 45 males and 177 females including 6 male and 40 female child victims have been rescued. A total of 388 offenders comprising 145 males and 243 females have been prosecuted and a total of 231 offenders, comprising 92 males and 139 females have been punished.
Our achievements in tackling trafficking in persons in recent years must not be undone by the coronavirus pandemic.
Now is the time for our country, which is grappling with internal armed conflicts, natural disasters and the global pandemic of COVID-19, to strengthen anti-trafficking efforts during the global COVID-19 crisis.
To tackle human trafficking amidst and post COVId-19, we must ensure equal access to healthcare, services for unemployed persons, and other welfare services for vulnerable individuals and must guarantee that those who need this support the most can effectively access it.
Ending trafficking in persons requires a firm commitment, and not just at the institutional level. It also requires a broad involvement of international civil society organizations which are working tirelessly with governmental organizations at large. And, most of all — we need the involvement of men.