One of the most apparent mechanisms of gender based violence lies in the phenomenon of trafficking in human beings, which is rising with approximately 700,000 women and children being trafficked every year . More precisely, “severe forms of trafficking in persons” are defined as:
sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age;
or the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labour or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. A victim need not be physically transported from one location to another for the crime to fall within these definitions.
Trafficking is a multidimensional issue and highlights a myriad of serious human rights violations, economic and developmental issues with consequences for the entire region and its societies, a criminal matter, in which the traffickers are the perpetrators. Victims of both labour and sex trafficking experience a multiple troubling circumstances such as physical and sexual violence, emotional and physical abuse which serves to severely impact their physical and emotional well-being. Trafficking, especially sex trafficking specifically highlights violence against women.
The unprecedented flow of migrants, including refugees, to Europe since the beginning of 2015 has shed light on the challenges of identifying human trafficking victims among migrant populations. Some trafficking victims have been identified amongst those fleeing civil war and unrest, and many migrants remain vulnerable to trafficking en route to or after arriving in Europe. As a mental health counsellor working in Cyprus and from Lebanese origin, it is interesting for me to note that Cyprus and Lebanon have been classified as destination countries for victims of trafficking, mainly for sexual and labour exploitation.
Whilst it is important to highlight that individuals from their own countries may find themselves in exploitative situations (internal trafficking), migrants constitute the major target group for traffickers and migrant women represented the largest recorded population vulnerable to sex trafficking. More precisely, the case of Rama , a young Syrian women lured to Lebanon with the promise of a restaurant job only to be subjected to being enslaved within a trafficking ring – is an ever present reality for many migrant women – fleeing their countries in the hope for a better future. A new study by King’s College and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine indicated that 80% of trafficked women and 40% of trafficked men suffer from depression, anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD] upon escaping exploitation. Shedding light on this reality is prominent for various factors, specifically in the hope of raising awareness on the gender-based nature that accompanies sex trafficking as well as the fact that vulnerable individuals are subjected to exploitative situations.
Thus, in light of this on the ground reality of gender based violence which subjects the most vulnerable at times - enhancing education, the rights of individuals in migratory conditions and mental health services for individuals subjected to such heinous circumstances are necessary in promoting effective change at a macro and microlevel. I would argue that this is the responsibility of all individuals to raise awareness on this issue as a mere result of its denigrating impact on humanity and furthermore the responsibility of all professionals within the fields on leadership, education, human rights and mental health.